Monday

17th Jun 2019

Focus

Chinese premier embarks on fence-mending tour of Europe

  • Chinese citizens celebrated the start of the Year of the Ox on Monday (Photo: EUobserver)

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao will arrive in Europe on Tuesday (27 January) for a visit that Chinese foreign ministry officials have described as a 'Journey of Confidence.'

His first stop will be the World Economic Forum annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland, ahead of a number of scheduled meetings with European leaders in a bid to mend fences following the postponing of last month's EU-China summit.

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China called off the summit in protest against French President Nicholas Sarkozy's meeting with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader.

France held the rotating EU presidency at the time and Paris has been conspicuously excluded from Mr Wen's itinerary of meetings that will seek, amongst other things, to boost trade ties between the two regions.

Both sides are heavily reliant on each other and keen to solidify good ties in the current economic downturn. The EU is China's largest trading partner, whereas China is the EU's second largest external trade partner, after the United States.

As well as visits to Germany, Spain and Britain, the Chinese premier is scheduled to meet with top EU officials and the Czech EU presidency in Brussels on Friday.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday that they would be discussing a number of important issues.

"We will be talking to him about the issues of great concern to the international community, the economic crisis without any doubt, but also issues regarding the international agenda, in which China has an important role to play," said Mr Solana.

He also expressed his hope that a new EU-China summit could be scheduled in the near future.

"I hope that this type of meeting will create the climate to have the summit - the sooner the better. We need it," he told reporters.

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