N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
A statement made by China’s ambassador to France caused an uproar by questioning the independence of nations that had previously been part of the USSR. In Brussels and especially in what we called former eastern bloc countries the goose was cooked.
But see, Beijing distanced itself clearly and immediately from their diplomat in Paris: ‘China respects the sovereign state status of the participating republics after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and was one the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with relevant countries’. Also the embassy in Paris reacted and let know that the ambassador’s remarks ‘were not a statement of politics, but an expression of personal views’. Duly noted.
Slovak Foreign Minister Rastislav Kacer said: ‘I am satisfied with the response from Beijing that this doesn’t reflect an official line of thinking in China’. And in the words of EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, ‘this incident has now been duly clarified’.
Case closed. But not for the newly elected Czech President Petr Pavel, a former NATO military commander. He let know in an interview that China cannot be counted upon as a mediator for a political settlement in Ukraine. A difference of opinion with French President Emmanuel Macron, who recently argued Beijing can help end the conflict.
It makes clear that a united European Union is still a dream. But Borrell doesn’t give up. He revealed that the 2019 strategy on Beijing, which designated China as a partner, competitor and systematic rival, will be updated. EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss a new paper at their meeting on May 12. After that the new strategy will be discussed by the EU leaders.