4th Jun 2023

China backtracks on ambassador claim in row with Baltic states

  • French president Emmanuel Macron (l) and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in Beijing earlier this month (Photo: European Commission)
Listen to article

China is distancing itself from comments made by its ambassador in Paris that appeared to question the independence of ex-USSR states — which would include Baltic EU member states.

In a statement published Monday (24 April), the Chinese embassy in Paris declared that televised statements by its ambassador Lu Shaye were personal and not a political declaration.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The Chinese side respects the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries," it said, despite threats by Beijing to seize the island-nation of Taiwan by military force.

The growing backlash follows comments last week on the French LCI network by Lu who said former Soviet countries don't have "effective status in international law." Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were all part of the USSR from 1940 to 1991.

Lu made the statement as part of a wider discussion on whether Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, was part of Ukraine.

"Even these ex-Soviet countries don't have an effective status in international law because there was no international agreement to materialise their status as sovereign countries," Lu said.

Bloomberg news reports that the embassy has since removed a transcript of the interview from its official WeChat account.

The statements have inflamed Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and led to calls among some MEPs to have France declare Lu persona non grata.

All three have since summoned meetings with Chinese state diplomatic representatives. It is not immediately clear if Beijing's efforts at damage control will temper the row, although Luxembourg's foreign minister Jean Asselborn called Lu's remarks a "blunder".

China's friendly relations with Moscow, given Russia's invasion of Ukraine, has only sowed further distrust despite efforts by the French president to have Beijing act a mediator.

Among the most ardent critics of China is Lithuania.

"We've been always saying that we do not trust China, as a mediator, as a possible mediator," said Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania's minister of foreign affairs.

"It has definitely chosen a side. They sided with Russia, politically," he said.

He had also equated Beijing with Moscow propagandists spreading lies about Ukraine. "They questioned the sovereignty of the countries, they questioned the borders, they question the territorial integrity of countries," he said.

"This is the narrative that we've been hearing from Moscow, and now it's being sent out by another country," he told reporters.

Estonia made similar comments.

"We are an independent sovereign country, we are a member of European Union, Nato," said Estonia's minister of foreign affairs, Margus Tsahkna.

China is among a list of discussion topics at a Luxembourg meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs on Monday.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the talks will seek to "reassess and recalibrate our strategy towards China."

Meanwhile, in Brussels, the European Commission is holding talks with China's minister of commerce Wang Wenta to discuss bilateral trade issues.

A European Commission spokesperson said the two sides will also discuss specific issues of market access and trade interests.

The Brussels-executive had last December launched legal proceedings against China at the World Trade Organization for alleged restrictions imposed by Beijing on Lithuania's exports.


Keeping China at arm's length is in focus This WEEK

The G7 aims to send a signal to China by announcing a joint effort to counter "economic coercion," with the EU hoping to avoid becoming a "vassal" in a US-China clash, as French president Emmanuel Macron said recently.


Why a cacophony of EU voices on China is a good thing

The ability to use different foreign policy discourses is the EU's biggest asset. It keeps a systemic rival like China on its toes, while signalling to the US that Europe has its own interests.


An interesting Czech vs Slovak split over China policy

In the Czech Republic, the extravagant promises of Chinese investment never materialised and the former president Miloš Zeman's sycophancy toward Xi Jinping provoked a wide revulsion. In contrast, Slovakia has avoided a real debate about its relationship with China.


How the EU's money for waste went to waste in Lebanon

The EU led support for the waste management crisis in Lebanon, spending around €89m between 2004-2017, with at least €30m spent on 16 solid-waste management facilities. However, it failed to deliver.

Latest News

  1. Spanish PM to delay EU presidency speech due to snap election
  2. EU data protection chief launches Frontex investigation
  3. Madrid steps up bid to host EU anti-money laundering hub
  4. How EU leaders should deal with Chinese government repression
  5. MEPs pile on pressure for EU to delay Hungary's presidency
  6. IEA: World 'comfortably' on track for renewables target
  7. Europe's TV union wooing Lavrov for splashy interview
  8. ECB: eurozone home prices could see 'disorderly' fall

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us