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20th Nov 2019

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Chinese PM calls for EU deal on Greece

  • Li with commission chief Juncker: 'China is a true friend of Greece and of the EU' (Photo: European Commission)

Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang spoke out against a Grexit on Monday (29 June) and urged Greece's creditors to reach an agreement with Athens.

The Chinese leader spoke in unusually direct terms about the debt crisis in a speech at an EU-China business summit in Brussels, noting that the European Union “is in a crucial stage”.

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“Let me reiterate that China always supports European integration and that China hopes to see a prosperous Europe, a united European Union and a strong euro”, Li said.

“Yes”, he added, the Greek debt crisis is “an internal affair of the EU.”

“However, the issue whether Greece stays within the eurozone not only concerns the stability of the euro, but also … the stability and economic recovery of the whole world".

Li went on to say that China “would like to see Greece stay in the eurozone”.

“China is a true friend of Greece and of the EU”, he noted.

He made his remarks following a turbulent weekend for Greece and the eurozone, in which Greece broke off talks with its creditors, announced a referendum, and introduced capital controls.

The sudden crisis upset the schedule of the China event, which was supposed to see speeches by Li and by commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in the morning.

At the last minute the session with Li and Juncker was rescheduled from the 10:00-11:00am slot, to 3:15pm Brussels time.

“I don't know how to apologise”, said Juncker, when he opened his speech, addressing Li.

“I had to do what I had to do this morning. We are trying to resolve what we call the Greek debt crisis. I had to spend some hours on that”, he noted, adding he would have preferred to spend more time with the Chinese leader.

“On my knees, I'm apologising”, he said, after which he went on to say he is “a great admirer of China”.

Juncker said that as prime minister of Luxembourg he visited China several times and joked that “the Chinese secret service will know how often I was in China”.

He invited China to invest in Europe and said the EU “is a strong and reliable partner for China”.

Juncker said that “as friends”, China and the EU could be frank with each other, and that human rights are important to the EU.

“I don't want to lecture China on human rights … [But] we have to discuss when it comes to these issues”, he noted.

At the end of his speech, Juncker apologised again, saying: “Blame Greece, not me.”

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EU and Chinese leaders will meet in Brussels on Monday, with the EU hoping for Chinese investment in its new growth fund as well as support for a global climate deal.

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