BERLIN—Germany assumed the rotating 6-month-long presidency of the European Union on July 1. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said one focus would be China and a more concerted response to the CCP’s transgressions.
Merkel is stressing that Europe needs to speak with one voice if it wants to successfully deal with an increasingly assertive China.
According to observers, the Chinese Communist Party has been employing divide-and-conquer tactics in Europe for years, for example via the 17+1 initiative. It works to break countries out of the alliance so that it can deal with them one-on-one in an uneven relationship.
“So we have to tell them: That is beyond your powers. Germany could not do that alone. Other EU states can’t do that alone either,” said Johann Wadephul, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German Parliament. “In this respect this appeal to speak with one voice is the most important systemic approach for the European presidency.”
After the Chinese regime imposed its so-called National Security Law on Hong Kong last week, the EU warned of “serious consequences.” Europeans are concerned the law will undermine the city’s autonomy, rule of law, and freedom.
Now, the bloc is mulling over what those consequences could look like.
While the European Parliament calls on the member states to file a case before the International Court of Justice, others in Europe also favor sanctions against Chinese officials.
Some say the EU needs to remember the significance of its own economic weight, since China may need the European market even more than the reverse.
“If China cannot make use of the largest economic area in the world, namely the European Union, and cannot massively export to it, China’s [domestic] economic and political problems will increase,” said Michael Brand, speaker for human rights for the CDU/CSU caucus within the German Parliament.
While China is the EU’s second-biggest trading partner behind the United States, the EU is China’s biggest trading partner.
Some stress that a coherent and impactful response toward China needs to include Europe’s allies, too.
“I advocate that Europe and the United States act together and do not develop a China strategy on their own, but that they define shared interests and try to implement them with shared means,” Wadephul said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell last month agreed to a “distinct bilateral dialogue focusing on China.”
There’s also a growing alliance outside the governments that don’t always see eye to eye.
Brand is co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, an international group of legislators. They’re similarly pushing for a stronger, more concerted line on China.
”If we do not want to see our own freedoms and liberties threatened even more, because China’s approach is global … then we also need a joint response and coordination among the friends of freedom and human rights,” Brand said.
Merkel and the EU leaders vowed to more robustly defend Europe’s interests and universal values in the face of the Chinese regime’s authoritarianism.