The Communication places particular emphasis on “leverage”. “The EU should use linkages across different policy areas and sectors in order to exert more leverage in pursuit of its objectives” and must leverage international instruments to obtain reciprocity on public procurement. Although this is a common and realistic practice in international negotiations, it has never been acknowledged by the EU which always stuck to a more idealist approach by issue… Member states should speed up the implementation of financial instruments towards accession states (read : the Balkans targeted by China) and the neighborhood (read : matching Belt & Road offers), and they should also implement the new investment screening regulation. They should adopt a common approach towards the security of future 5G networks – one might add, in contrast with the present anarchy prevailing in plans for deployment. More generally, the EU should “foster industrial cross border cooperation, with strong European players, around strategic value chains”. Notably, this is a call for member states to act independently of directives from the EU: the EU is not seeking to run an industrial policy, it is encouraging member states to develop these in a pragmatic cross-border fashion.
These robust recommendations for action come at a very sensitive juncture. The EU Council has China on its agenda for March 21 – if this is not derailed in practice by the Brexit issue. Xi Jinping is visiting, again, a set of European countries. The EU-China summit then takes place, in the middle of what will be largely national campaigns for the European elections.
A soon to depart Commission, so often accused of neglecting European interests when member states themselves too often take opportunistic and short-term views, is laying down a realist agenda to face the onslaught of Chinese competition. It deserves clear support from the governments of Member States, and it should be a basis for the program of its successors.
Copyright : NG HAN GUAN / POOL / AFP