05/21/2021, 13.23
EUROPE – CHINA
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EU Parliament puts investment deal on halt until Beijing lifts sanctions

MEPs freeze the ratification process by an overwhelming majority vote. Even Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic MEPs elected with the European People's Party back the resolution; the German chancellor is the real sponsor of the agreement. The European Commission is criticised for its weak stance vis-à-vis China, especially over human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Brussels (AsiaNews) – The European Parliament has frozen the ratification process for the investment agreement with China. This decision will remain in place until Beijing lifts sanctions  against European individuals and entities.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution to this end yesterday afternoon by an overwhelming majority: 599 votes in favour, 30 against and 58 abstentions.

The European People's Party, which includes Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also voted in favour of the resolution. Driven by her country's exporters, the German Chancellor is the real sponsor of the agreement reached with China last December following negotiations that began in 2013.

MEPs strongly condemned Beijing's punitive measures, which were seen as an attack on fundamental European freedoms. China has imposed sanctions on five MEPs, the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, as well as a number of European academics.

Beijing’s move came in response to EU sanctions against four senior Chinese officials, believed to be responsible for suppressing the rights of Turkic-speaking Muslims in Xinjiang.

Supporters of the resolution have made it clear that lifting sanctions is a condition for starting the ratification debate, not for giving the green light to the agreement.

MEPs have reminded the European Commission – which is responsible for the negotiations – that they will take account of the human rights situation in China if they have to give their opinion on the deal.

This will also involve Hong Kong. Many MEPs have criticised the European Commission's inaction vis-à-vis the suppression of pro-democracy movement in the former British colony, especially its inability to overcome Hungary's opposition to targeted sanctions against Beijing.

The government of Viktor Orban is China’s best ally in Europe, as well as one the beneficiaries of its financial largesse.

Most MEPs also want the EU Commission to open trade negotiations with Taiwan, which China consider a “rebel province,” and address Beijing's “cyber” and “hybrid” threats.

In a tweet, Reinhard Bütikofer said that yesterday's overwhelming vote is not only a signal sent to Beijing, but also to the European Commission. The Green leader, head of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, is one of five MEPs blacklisted by the Chinese Government.

EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis appears to have heeded the message. Yesterday, at a press conference, he said that China’s retaliatory sanctions are “certainly not a conducive environment for working towards the ratification of the deal.”

China's Foreign Ministry has called on MEPs to “reflect deply” and ratify the agreement as soon as possible. However, Europeans seem bent on taking a tougher approach to Beijing. Earlier this month, the Commission announced a new law against foreign investors subsidised by their government and a review of industrial strategy to reduce dependence on imports in strategic sectors – two clear jabs at China’s large government-owned corporations.

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