On 28 May, the Chinese parliament approved new security legislation giving Beijing extensive powers to crush dissent in Hong Kong.

Speaking after the EU Foreign Affairs meeting the next day, EU High Representative Josep Borrell said the Chinese move “weakened and jeopardised Hong Kong’s autonomy [calling] into question China’s will to uphold its international commitments.”

The comment came as EU member states raised “grave concerns” over the decision – although such disapproval may remain moot, as no concrete action was taken. Borrell suggested the EU will try to “put pressure on Chinese authorities,” to make them aware that their move “will affect the way the EU deals with some issues of mutual interest.” Without actual action, however, the EU-China relationship seem not to be undermined in any way. 

Indeed, Mr Borrell said the next EU-China meeting - to be held in Leipzig in September - is still on the agenda and, asked if European investments in China are at risk, responded with a firm “no.” He also denied the possibility of sanctions against the Asian superpower, not considering them as “the way to solve problems in China.” Only one member state made reference to them, he explained. 

The EU is currently trying to pursue its own interests and avoid involvement in US-China rivalry, which has recently been exacerbated by the pandemic. The bloc seeks to speak with a unified voice to China and address all elements of the Brussels-Beijing relationship - which should be covered by an ad hoc new EU strategy, expected in the next several months. 

But EU member states are divided on China, as some of them are willing to adopt a harder while others are more cautious - due to very close economic relationships with Beijing, also linked to its new Belt and Road infrastructure project. 

Foreign ministers also adopted conclusions on the Afghanistan peace process and future EU support for peace and development in the country. In a joint statement, they called for the end of violence and a “prompt start” to intra-Afghan negotiations, specifying that the EU’s financial support will be conditional, to ensure that “republican, democratic and values-based principles are protected and further promoted.”

Caterina Tani in Brussels for MON

Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU, holding a press conference after the Foreign Affairs Council on 29 May. (Photo: Council of the EU)

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