The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, held a meeting by video conference with Chinese State Councillor / Foreign Minister, Wang Yi on 8 February. They discussed EU-China relations, the fight against COVID-19, and international issues, in particular the response to the military coup in Myanmar and the need for continued close international coordination on Iran.
The High Representative and the State Councillor reviewed recent developments in EU-China relations, welcoming the conclusion in principle on 30 December of negotiations for a Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). They also exchanged views on the EU-China bilateral agenda for 2021. The High Representative emphasised the importance of continued joint efforts to achieve concrete results in the bilateral relationship and in particular with regards to climate change and the environment. High Representative Borrell welcomed the first High-Level Environment and Climate Dialogue on 1 February as a positive step towards defining ambitious goals for bilateral cooperation on climate change and key environmental issues, including biodiversity.
The High Representative also stressed the need to discuss issues where there are disagreements in order to maintain a frank relationship. In this regard, he reiterated the EU’s strong concerns about the ongoing pressure on democracy and fundamental rights in Hong Kong, the treatment of human rights defenders, as well as the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities, in particular in Xinjiang.
On COVID-19, the High Representative welcomed China’s confirmed participation in the “Access to COVID-19 tools” Facility under COVAX. He emphasised the need for continued solidarity and partnership in the development and the delivery of vaccines, and to avoid the politicisation of vaccine deployment at this crucial time. He underlined the EU’s contribution of over €870 million (Team Europe) to the COVAX facility managed by the WHO, which has already started to deliver vaccines to around 90 countries in the first semester. The High Representative emphasised, in particular, further joint efforts in the context of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative of the G20 to provide relief notably to African partner countries.
On Myanmar, High Representative Borrell emphasised the urgent need for the military to release those detained and to engage in a dialogue process between all key stakeholders. He stressed that the EU stands ready to work with ASEAN, China and other partners on this, and it was agreed to intensify contacts to this end.
On Iran, the High Representative recognised the positive role played by China in preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) to date, including on the implementation of the Arak Modernisation Project. The High Representative expressed his deep concern about Iran's nuclear trajectory, including the most recent Iranian nuclear steps, and underlined the urgency of pursuing diplomatic efforts to ensure full JCPoA implementation by all sides in line with Ministerial meeting of JCPoA participants on 21 December 2020.
At the initiative of the Chinese side, there was also an exchange of views on relations with the United States. High Representative Borrell underlined the EU’s strong bonds with the US. He welcomed the new US Administration’s commitment to working cooperatively with international partners and multilateral institutions, and expressed his conviction that there was scope for the EU, China and the US to join forces in dealing with key global challenges such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Iran nuclear issue.
High Representative Borrell reiterated the European Council President Charles Michel’s invitation for President Xi Jinping to join an EU-China Leaders’ meeting with the participation of the EU Heads of State and Government to be held in Brussels later in the year, once conditions allow. There was a positive response by State Councillor/Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The High Representative also expressed his intention to visit Beijing at a suitable early occasion, so as to hold the regular Strategic Dialogue as a face-to-face meeting.