EU foreign ministers approved a plan to reduce dependency on China

EU foreign ministers supported the strategy to lessen the EU’s reliance on China economically. Still, as the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said, the challenge now is to work out how to implement it.

EU foreign ministers discussed the bloc’s approach to China in Stockholm. (Photo: AFP)

After morning discussions about the Russia-Ukraine war, ministers reviewed an EU position paper to change policy on China, as reported by EURACTIV.

The strategy is the most recent attempt to find a compromise between the opinions of the EU’s 27 member states and maintain the EU’s distinct stance toward China while maintaining a tight relationship with the US, which is pressing for a tougher stance against Beijing.

The ministers agreed on the draft document. After the meeting, Borrell said in a statement to reporters that EU foreign ministers “welcomed the document that we presented” and had generally endorsed the proposal. 

This drafted plan calls for the EU to place a greater spotlight on China’s role as a geopolitical rival, as well as a partner on international issues and an economic competitor.

Borrell stated that there were at least three grounds for “re-calibrating” China policy, including those related to values, the economy, and strategic security, in a letter in the discussion document.

They agreed on the significant points of this re-calibration of our China approach, according to Borrell. “A risk exists when a dependency grows too large,” he continued.

In the years leading up to the Ukraine War, Borrell claimed that the EU had made the “strategic mistake” of becoming overly reliant on Russian gas.

He also cautioned that the EU was now even more dependent on China than it had been on Russian energy for crucial technology like solar panels and essential minerals.

De-risking is merely a term. But reviewing all of our business ties with China requires a lot of work and would take time, he added.

Borrell emphasized that the goal was to restore balance rather than “de-couple” the economies of Europe and China.

The assertion that the EU’s foreign ministers are totally on the same page, however, was disputed by several member states following the conference.

EU aims at changing its China policy

According to an internal document seen by EURACTIV, the EU must take a more “clear-eyed” perspective and concentrate on values, economic security, and strategic security when dealing with China to minimize dangers.

However, given the “diametrically opposite viewpoints between China hawks and “the usual suspects,” like Hungary, one EU diplomat expressed scepticism about a significant revision of the bloc’s China policy. 

To offer the idea to EU leaders at a meeting in June, where China will be one of their top agenda topics, EU officials are expected to consolidate it and take into account member states’ worries.

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