Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

EU Made a Foreign Policy Sacrifice because of the Crisis

Zhaneta Kuyumdzhieva, Adelina Marini, September 27, 2012

Since quite a while ago, a number of analysts have been warning that the ongoing eurozone crisis might diminish EU’s foreign policy weight on global stage. Well, this is already a fact. There are two testimonies for this. The first one is that for the first time after an EU–China summit there was no press conference. This is extremely worrisome and even scandalous, but it demonstrates the plain inability of the EU, despite all its institutional weight, to exert influence on the Chinese side for the sake of respecting at least at their joint meetings basic principles of openness and democracy. Between parentheses, we would like to mention here that the EU concedes as well to Russia’s demands to limit to two the number of questions addressed to each of the delegations during press conferences following their joint meetings. The second testimony is featured in the joint press communiqué that was issued after the 15th EU–China summit.

“Emphasised the importance of taking a positive view of each other's development and rendering mutual support. The Chinese side reaffirmed its continued support for the European integration process, and expressed confidence that appropriate steps were being taken to tackle the euro area sovereign debt crisis. The EU reaffirmed its support for China's peaceful development and its respect for China's sovereignty and territorial integrity and expressed its confidence in China's efforts to maintain sustainable, steady and rapid economic growth.” The paragraph reveals the geopolitical downfall of the EU as a global player in a moment when the tensions in the Pacific, particularly between China and Japan over disputed islands, is rising by the day and by the hour.

Because of the crisis, the EU receded from its position to put pressure on China for the sake of a development that is not just peaceful but democratic as well. The news is extremely bad for the US that has yet for another time remained alone on the global stage. It also coincides highly uncomfortably with an internally delicate moment: because of the economic problems, which are widely attributed to China, and because of the presidential elections campaign dominated by the topic of the relations with China. EU, however, assesses its co-operation with China as beneficial, it delivers and has to continue. This is exactly the spirit of the rest of the joint communiqué, extended over 7 pages, that mention the commitments of both sides to promote human rights and the rule of the law but add nothing more.

On the other hand, in their joint statement Presidents Barroso and Van Rompuy state that they thanked PM Wen Jiabao for China's commitment to increase by 43 billion dollars the IMF resources. China was among the last countries to announce a concrete amount in response to EU’s and other countries' calls to create a global firewall against contagion from the eurozone crisis.

Earlier this month, referring to an analysis of Carnegie Endowment, euinside wrote that it is high time for the EU to harvest the benefits from its relations with its so called “strategic” partners in Asia. On September 20th, however, among the results of the summit with the participation of European Council President Hermann Van Rompuy, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, High Representative for the Foreign Relations Catherine Ashton and Chinese PM Wen Jiabao, it is hard to see any real benefits. The communiqué makes clear that both sides in the dialogue have agreed about the need “to tackle global challenges such as the international financial and economic crisis, sustainable development, environmental protection, climate change, food and water security, energy security and nuclear safety.”

The common goals of the partnership are emphasised by the expressed ambitions for synergy (or at least for a kind of fruitful connectivity) of the 12th five-year plan of the PRC and the Europe 2020 strategy – something that was stated also at the last summit - the one that only painfully took place, again due to the eurozone crisis. This, along with the intention to formulate a more result-oriented package of co-operation measures (a guide book), would contribute to the deepening of relations in a number of areas. However, at the summit some important agreements have been signed. One of them is the declaration for a dialogue in the area of innovations. This dialogue will be the official platform for information exchange in the innovations field and will be held annually. The first meeting in this framework is expected to take place on the eve of the regular EU–China summit in 2013.

Among the documents signed, were also a joint statement for co-operation in future cosmic technologies projects and an agreement for a programme aimed to cut the carbon emissions. EU will provide about 25 million euros for projects aimed at the development and use of emissions trade systems, sustainable urbanisation and environmental development. With regard to trade where the mutual interest is on hand with a 428 billion euro turnover, a memorandum for understanding was signed that aims co-operation in the implementation of the anti-monopole rules. The document envisages strengthening of the views exchange between the two sides regarding the implementation of the legal rules for competition.

The problem with the state intervention in the economy, market distortions and the lack of protection for intellectual property are among the main obstacles for the European businesses and investments in China. In relation to this the reached consensus is underscored about the need for co-operation in the implementation of the relevant legislation – an issue that was discussed at the annual intellectual property dialogue meeting on 18 September in Brussels. Among the other interesting initiatives agreed by EU and China last week are:

- Opening of discussions for a potential agreement between China and EURATOM;

- Strengthening of the co-operation in the field of illegal immigration in exchange for a mutual abolition of visas for the owners of diplomatic passports;

- Opening of an office of the European Investment Bank in China;

- Drafting of a project for risk management in case of natural disasters so that EU and its Asian partner could unite their efforts in the management of crises and providing of humanitarian aid.

And if at the time of the previous EU–China summit, which took place only 7 months ago, the main demands were put on the table, at the 20 September meeting in Brussels the price has become evident. And that price appears to be high.