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Thank you very much Madam Chair, Honourable Members of this House,
Hong Kong is the EU's 14th largest trading partner in goods, and the 4th largest in services. More than 2,000 European companies are present in Hong Kong. And the European Union is Hong Kong’s second largest trading partner in goods, after Mainland China.
Vice-President Dombrovskis was in Hong Kong just ten days ago, and we have invited the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, to visit us in Brussels as soon as possible.
We care about Hong Kong. And we know that its autonomy has been the foundation of its success.
The people of Hong Kong are now asking to resume electoral reform, and to have a genuine choice for the election of the Chief Executive and Legislative Council, in accordance with the Basic Law.
But as your report rightly notes, the principle of "one country, two systems" has come under increasing pressure. The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in Hong Kong have been questioned. The implementation of the electoral reform has been postponed.
On top of this, we cannot forget the case of five book-publishers who went missing in 2015: to us, that is the most serious challenge to the Basic Law since 1997. And unfortunately, it is not an isolated event.
In line with the report's recommendations, we intend to reinforce our bilateral dialogue with Hong Kong: our latest EU-Hong Kong Structured Dialogue took place less than a month ago.
What we always stress in our dialogues is that the principle of "one country, two systems" is essential for Hong Kong's prosperity. But it is also important for China, for its own growth and prosperity.
Our relations with China are getting more and more intense – not only economically, but also on foreign policy and security issues.
Our dialogue is very open, and our message to our Chinese friends is very clear. Preserving "one country, two systems" is in their best interest, and we are ready to work with them to make this happen.
This has been a very useful exchange and I, on behalf of Vice-President Frederica Mogherini, thank the rapporteur for this excellent work and the Honourable Members for their interventions.
From this debate I conclude that we all share a strong commitment to Hong Kong's autonomy in the context of the "one country, two systems" principle. The relations between the EU and Hong Kong keep on growing. Now they cover not only trade and economics, but also customs cooperation, innovation and technology, competition, food safety, the environment and education. EU companies play a key role in sectors like financial services, retail and distribution, transport and logistics, which are all vital for Hong Kong. They rely on Hong Kong's efficient business environment. To that end, we hope Hong Kong's high standards of rule of law, transparency, non-discrimination and economic freedom will be maintained in the future.
May I close by signalling once again Commission’s appreciation of Parliament's role in keeping this important issue on the international agenda.