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News and Views on Europe – 22 March 2019

Following much deliberations, the 27 EU leaders reached a unanimous decision to grant the UK a delay until 22nd May if British MPs approve Prime Minister May’s withdrawal deal when it is put to vote for the third time next week.

Should the deal again be voted down, the EU will back a shorter delay until 12 April allowing the UK to either “crash out on the 12 April”, seek a longer extension or revoke Article 50.

EU will gather Thursday (21 March) at their summit dinner in Brussels to discuss heightened defensive strategy against China, possibly indicating an end to the free and easy access that Chinese businesses have enjoyed so far in Europe.

“China-EU relations have maintained a sound momentum of development and cooperation in many areas and have achieved some fruitful outcomes… the two sides also have a consistent position and common aspirations in maintaining multilateralism,” Lu Kang, the foreign ministry spokesman for China, said.

By building immense amounts of new infrastructure to connect countries across the globe, China hopes to stimulate economic growth and trade across Asia, Africa, and Europe through this “21st century silk road.” Italy is the first G7 country to sign the BRI deal.

China has recently pledged greater collaboration with American and European companies on the BRI projects in a bid to counteract criticisms against it for promoting Beijing’s influence at the cost of host countries.

Referring to the recent parliamentary adoption of the Cybersecurity Act, which extends ENISA’s mandate and establishes a cybersecurity certification scheme, she said “it is essential that the certification scheme gets off to a good and fast start” as global actors are watching the EU.

Additionally, the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a crucial topic as a number of tech giants–six in the US Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Apple) and three in China (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) control the communication infrastructure of modern society, along with our data.

Despite Beijing’s clearly stated goals for China to become the world’s leader in AI, Huawei’s chief representative to the EU, Abraham Liu has highlighted Huawei’s intention to contribute to developing AI by reinvesting in AI and working with European developers.

By allowing developers to use platforms developed by Huawei, Liu emphasised “a joint effort across the entire value chain” as well as the importance of transparency for sectors such as law and health.

However, Europe’s secret weapon against AI competition from China and USA may be relying on ethical guidelines and criteria for transparency to achieve “trustworthy” AI technology.Pekka Ala-Pietilä, who chairs the EU’s high-level expert group on AI sees ethics and competition as being intertwined.

Still, the bloc is falling behind its competitors in availability of raw data as Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, acknowledged: “it is not enough that you want to do [AI] in a way that corresponds to our basic values — you also need the raw material.”

The controversial anti-migrant billboards and anti-EU rhetoric poster campaigns put up by the Hungarian government targeting the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker provided further fuel towards the decision to suspend Fidesz .

In their editorial, Magyar Nemzet argued that “there is only one path forward for Fidesz: the path of the new alliance,” adding that “Viktor Orban and Fidesz should leave the European People’s Party and form an alliance with Italy’s Matteo Salvini, the Freedom Party of Austria and the Polish ruling party.” Orbán said Thursday (21 March) in a Reuters’ report that he agreed to a voluntary stop to Fidesz’s participation in EPP matters in order to stave off an expulsion..

Orbán had called them “useful idiots.” He said that he was quoting Lenin and had “intended to criticize a certain policy and not certain politicians.” Fidesz’s suspension means that party members will be denied attendance at EPP meetings.

Addressing criticism that Article 7 is a blackmailing instrument used by the West against the East, Roth argued that the new proposed mechanism will be more inclusive, and will accord objective, non-discriminatory, and equal treatment to everyone.

Weber wrote that he is “convinced that the only way for Europe to establish itself for the future as a community of law, to establish its authority and credibility, is to have effective instruments to ensure and protect the rule of law.” Weber proposes a new nine-judge panel composed of independent experts who will “regularly review the state of play of the independence of the judiciary and freedom of the press.” The panel will also “investigate potential political, judicial and administrative corruption” in all EU member states.

With two months left to go before the European Parliament elections, Europe’s liberals on Tuesday (19 March) finally chose their lead candidates for the election, presenting to the Union a whole “Team Europe.” Party officials told POLITICO that European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager of Denmark, former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and ex-commissioner Emma Bonino of Italy are among the seven-member slate of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).


China's deal with Vatican faces key test with appointment of first bishop under new arrangement (SCMP) 2019-03-29 China's controversial deal with the Vatican may soon face a key test with the nomination of a new bishop, sources have said.

For decades the Catholic Church in China has been split between an official, government-controlled church whose bishops are selected by the state, and an underground church, loyal to the Vatican, which maintained its traditional prerogative of appointing bishops.

Father Yao Shun, the current administrator of the diocese, is tipped as a likely candidate for the post, which became vacant on the death of the former bishop John Liu Shigong at the age of 90 in 2017.

The source continued "he is favoured by both sides so his consecration is only a matter of course", and said that the final procedures had been pushed back in light of the national parliamentary sessions at the start of the month.

religion.^top^ 'A pleasure to see you again' but much work to do: US-China trade talks resume in Beijing (SCMP) 2019-03-29 China and the United States resumed talks in Beijing on Friday, giving their high-stakes trade negotiations another push to try to end their months-long trade war.

Issues identified included the protection of intellectual property rights, government subsidies for state-owned enterprises, trade barriers, market access and the US' trade deficit with China.

Liu, China's top trade negotiator, is expected to visit Washington next week, but any final deal to end the trade war, which has rattled the global economy since last July, must be agreed at a proposed summit between President Xi Jinping and US counterpart Donald Trump.^top^ China's island-building and 'Belt and Road Initiative' are part of same defence strategy, says US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (SCMP) 2019-03-29 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Thursday that China's island-building in the South China Sea and its sprawling international transport and trade initiative are both part of a broad national defence strategy, stepping up his rhetoric after Italy endorsed Beijing's infrastructure plan.

The countries named in China's belt and road plans account for 68 per cent of the world's population and 36 per cent of its gross domestic product.

"I think the world is waking up to this, and I think Asia and Southeast Asia in particular is waking up to this threat."^top^ Country 'will not relax' waste import ban (China Daily) 2019-03-29 China will not relax its ban on imports of foreign waste after seeing a rapid decline last year, a senior official said on Thursday.

After the State Council created an action plan in July 2017 to ban imports of solid waste into China, volume declined by 46.5 percent year-on-year to 226.3 million metric tons last year, according to the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

on the country's path of ecological progress, Qiu Qiwen, head of the ministry's solid waste and chemical management department, said the ministry will continue its efforts to sharply bring down imports, both in volume and variety, and do all it can to meet a target of zero imports by 2020.

Unlike common raw materials, solid waste usually contains polluting elements-even hazardous substances-that damage the environment and people's health, Qiu said.

"Raw materials generated from harmless processing of solid waste will not be classified as solid waste if they meet China's national quality standard and don't pose risks to public health or ecological safety,"

Against a backdrop of rising public awareness about environmental protection and people's anxiety about pollution, the central government published an action plan in July 2017 to ban waste imports.

But it included an exception for waste containing certain resources if no domestic alternative is available.^top^ Unity, reality and reciprocity: Europe brings down the barriers for Xi Jinping in Paris (SCMP) 2019-03-28 Chinese President Xi Jinping's week-long Europe tour ended on a surprisingly positive note in Paris on Tuesday, with a rare show of unity between Beijing and Brussels despite a gathering storm in China-EU relations and pressure from the United States.

Instead of focusing on grievances about Beijing's unfair trade practices, unfulfilled promises of reform and oppressive domestic policies, the European leaders struck a conciliatory tone and made a joint effort to call for a more balanced, reciprocal relations with China.

The unprecedented gathering, which Macron described as an effort to "establish a common definition for a new international order", was supposed to deal with "challenges of multilateralism", a veiled rebuke to Trump's protectionist policies and his unilateral vision of the world.

European leaders are keen to present a united front on China, but just like Xi they knew only too well that worsening relations with the US meant neither side could afford a showdown, observers said.

Their joint appearance and repeated appeals for a win-win relationship with Beijing were a well-orchestrated response to Xi's weekend success in persuading Rome to be the first Group of 7 country to endorse the belt and road.

It was also intended for the 16 central and eastern European countries, including 11 EU member states, accused of helping China divide the EU by signing up for the belt and road, Casarini added.

"France and other European nations may be bitter about China's growing influence in Europe and have to echo Washington's concerns on the Belt and Road Initiative due to their obsession of 'political correctness', but they are also keen to attract Chinese investment to tackle domestic economic woes,"

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, is stalling over weaker exports, trade tensions and China's economic slowdown, and the European Commission warned a month ago that France was vulnerable because of its high public debt, weak competitiveness and anti-establishment protests.

Macron, a staunch EU supporter who styled himself as a pro-business reformer, has seen his popularity plummet over the protests, rising income equality and poor economic growth.

Macron, who is critical of Italy's concession to China and leading an effort towards a united, tougher stand on Beijing, avoided any public discussion during Xi's visit of contentious issues from Huawei to Beijing's mass detainment of hundreds of thousands of Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang.

The EU's relations with the Trump administration have also hit a low point over the US president's punitive trade policies, his disdain of the transatlantic alliance as well as Washington's withdrawal from its global leadership role and the multilateral trading regime.

Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said that despite Xi's repeated pledges of support for multilateralism and European integration, his chequebook diplomacy involving €42.5 billion (US$47.8 billion) in business deals in Italy and France revealed Beijing's real intentions.

"It's become more clear to the European side that this is also about getting more prestige and influence for the Chinese government by having governments around the world endorse Xi Jinping's initiative and thus Chinese foreign policy."^top^ China and Russia may conduct joint naval exercises in late April (Global Times) 2019-03-28 China and Russia will reportedly hold the joint Naval Interaction-2019 exercises right after a parade scheduled late April to celebrate the Chinese Navy's birthday, with Chinese experts expecting five to six Russian warships to participate.

However, the schedule has not been confirmed by the Chinese side, as Wu Qian, spokesperson of China's Ministry of National Defense said at a routine press conference on Thursday that navies of both countries will soon start a second round of talks over this year's joint naval exercises following a first round recently being held, and more information will be released in due time.

Joint maneuvering, organization of communication, missile and artillery firing at sea and air targets and search and rescue support are listed as exercise subjects, the Sputnik report said.

China will conduct a multinational naval activity in Qingdao in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the PLA Navy on April 23, and Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie told the Global Times that it is very possible the drills will be held right after the parade.

Chinese military enthusiasts speculate the PLA Navy would possibly send an aircraft carrier and 10,000-ton class Type 055 destroyer for the parade, but no official information was released as of press time.^top^ Reforms advance in line with WTO rules (China Daily) 2019-03-28 China has taken concrete steps in market-oriented reforms in line with WTO rules, said Zhou Xiaochuan, former governor of the People's Bank of China, the central bank, on Wednesday.

Since China joined the WTO in 2001, the country has substantially cut government subsidies and tariffs, making the domestic pricing system more compliant with international standards, said Zhou, who is vice-chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia, which officially kicks off on Thursday.

He believes the issue will probably be further discussed in this year's G20 Summit, to be held in Osaka, Japan, in June, at which leaders from 19 countries and the European Union will gather to discuss key economic and financial topics.

He also suggested having more backup plans with more compromises in case reforms are not "very successful", so as to maintain and support the free trade system and curb protectionism.

victory for Huawei as EU ignores US calls to ban it in 5G security blueprint, despite 'worry' about Chinese security law (SCMP) 2019-03-27 The European Commission has ignored US calls to ban Chinese tech supplier Huawei as it announced on Tuesday a series of cybersecurity recommendations for next-generation mobile networks, in a move which was hailed by the Chinese tech giant.

In its guidance for the roll-out of ultra-fast fifth generation, or 5G, telecoms systems across the European Union in coming years, the commission urged member states to assess cyber threats to the 5G infrastructure in their national markets.

Security Commissioner Julian King said EU countries should identify and manage security risks, including by ensuring a diverse range of equipment makers and factoring in "legal and policy frameworks governing third-country suppliers."

Countries would have the right to ban companies for national security reasons and could also agree on EU-wide measures to identify products or suppliers considered potentially unsecure, the commission said.

5G mobile networks promise superfast download speeds with little signal delay, advances that are expected to underpin a new wave of innovation, including connected cars, remote medicine and factory robots.

The US warned Germany, which began its auction earlier this month, that allowing untrustworthy companies to supply equipment could jeopardise the sharing of sensitive information.^top^ EU leaders hold out olive branch to Chinese 'rival' by saying they want active role in Belt and Road Initiative (SCMP) 2019-03-26 European and Chinese leaders sought to reassure each other over economic cooperation on Tuesday despite the increasing US move towards protectionism, as leading EU figures said they were still open to joining China's "Belt and Road Initiative".

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