Category Archives: EU-ASIA

EU-China Summit: «agree to disagree»

«I’m pleased that we could speak by video conference with President Xi, together with Ursula (von der Leyen) and Angela (Merkel). Unfortunately, our physical meeting in Leipzig wasn’t possible» said Charles Michel, the Euroepan Council president after the meeting.

«Europe needs to be a player, not a playing field. Today’s meeting represents another step forward in forging a more balanced relationship with China.

«We strive for a relationship that delivers on our mutual commitments. That generates concrete results for both sides. Results that are also good for the world. In some areas, we are on the right track. In others, more work needs to be done.

«We made it clear where we stand. Where we agree, and where we disagree. Real differences exist and we won’t paper over them. But we are ready to engage. Ready to cooperate where we can, and ready to roll up our sleeves to find concrete solutions. And on those difficult issues, we conveyed a clear and united European message: we want a relationship with China that is based on reciprocity, responsibility, and basic fairness.

Today we addressed 4 key topics:
1. Climate change
2. Economic and trade issues
3. International Affairs and Human Rights
4. COVID-19 and economic recovery

«China is a key global partner in reducing global greenhouse gas and tackling climate change. And we encourage China to be even more ambitious. The EU is setting the bar high — carbon neutrality by 2050. And we count on China to show similar leadership by implementing the Paris Agreement. We have a robust trading relationship with China. The EU is China’s first trading partner. On average we trade over 1 billion euros a day.

Trade can energise our economic recovery. But we want more fairness. We want a more balanced relationship. That also means reciprocity and a level playing field. That’s why we welcome today’s signature of the Agreement on Geographical Indications. It’s a big step in the right direction. We are working on a comprehensive investment agreement and concrete results in other important areas.

And in the digital domain, we defend our vision of a free, open and secure cyberspace. For the good of our people and our societies. As global players, the EU and China have global responsibilities. This means upholding the rules-based international order.

The national security law for Hong Kong continues to raise grave concerns. The EU and our Member States have responded with one clear voice. Democratic voices in Hong Kong should be heard, rights protected, and autonomy preserved. We called on China to keep their promises to the people of Hong Kong and the international community.

We reiterated our concerns over China’s treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the treatment of human rights defenders and journalists. We asked for access for independent observers to Xinjiang and we called for the release of the arbitrarily detained Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and two Canadian citizens.

We agreed to discuss these issues in detail at the Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing later this year which will also include, we hope, a field visit to Tibet.

We called on China to refrain from unilateral actions in the South China Sea, to respect international law, and avoid escalations.

Covid-19 remains a deep and urgent threat. Only collective and transparent action will send this virus to the history books. There is only one way to find a vaccine and deploy it in all countries … that’s global cooperation.

We expect all countries, to cooperate with the impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international health response to COVID-19, and support the WHO to identify the source of the virus.

We encourage China to pursue an economic recovery that leads to structural reforms and that shapes a greener, more sustainable economy. This includes implementing the G20 Action Plan to drive sustainable global growth and reduce global tensions. And in Africa, China should be engaged in multilateral efforts on debt relief that will spur economic recovery.

En conclusion, nos discussions aujourd’hui ont été extrêmement importantes. Nous mesurons bien que parler, dialoguer est important mais cela ne suffit pas, il s’agit de transformer nos messages en actes.

Nous sommes déterminés à continuer à être engagés avec la Chine pour promouvoir nos valeurs, pour défendre nos intérêts. Nous voulons une relation équilibrée, fondée sur le respect pour les intérêts mutuels.

Nous considérons que la réciprocité, la transparence doivent être au cœur de l’engagement porté par l’Union européenne. »

Cambodia loses duty-free access to EU

As of today, 12 August, some of Cambodia’s typical export products such as garments, footwear and travel goods are subject to the European Union’s customs duties. The EU’s decision to partially withdraw Cambodia’s duty-free quota-free access to the EU market is now effective. The preferential treatment enjoyed by Cambodia under “Everything But Arms” (EBA) – the EU’s trade arrangement for Least Developed Countries – is now temporarily lifted due to serious and systematic concerns related to human rights ascertained in the country. The EU enforces this measure while staying open to engage with Cambodia on the necessary reforms.

 

“We have provided Cambodia with trade opportunities that let the country develop an export-oriented industry and gave jobs to thousands of Cambodians. We stand by their side also now in the difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic. Nonetheless, our continued support does not diminish the urgent need for Cambodia to respect human rights and labour rights. I stand ready to continue our engagement and to restore fully free access to the EU market for products from Cambodia provided we see substantial improvement in that respect” Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan said.

The withdrawal of preferential access to the EU market concerns approximately 20% of Cambodia’s exports to the EU. Cambodia may still export those products to the EU but they will be subject to general tariffs applicable to any other member of the World Trade Organization. The remaining 80% of Cambodia’s exports continue to enjoy preferential (duty-free, quota-free) access to the EU market.

The Commission, together with the European External Action Service (EEAS), will continue its enhanced engagement with Cambodia. The EU will keep on monitoring the situation in the country, with a particular focus on current restrictions in the areas of freedom of expression and civil and political rights, as well as land disputes and labour rights in the context of the ongoing reforms.

The EU is aware of the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Cambodia’s economy and employment and stands ready to support the country in its fight against the coronavirus crisis and towards economic recovery. This, however, does not waive the urgent need to ensure respect for human rights and labour rights in Cambodia.

Since February 2020, when the EU’s decision on partial withdrawal was taken, the Cambodian Government could at any time have taken the necessary steps to fulfil the conditions allowing the European Union to fully restore EBA preferential access to the EU market. This remains the case.

The Cambodian authorities should take action to restore political freedoms in the country, to re-establish the necessary conditions for a credible, democratic opposition and to initiate a process of national reconciliation through genuine and inclusive dialogue. The Commission and the EEAS have outlined the necessary actions to the Cambodian authorities on numerous occasions, as well as in the Commission’s Delegated Regulation. Actions include the reinstatement of the political rights of opposition members and the repeal or revision of laws, such as the Law on Political Parties and the Law on Non-Governmental Organisations. If the government of Cambodia shows significant progress, particularly on civil and political rights, the Commission may review its decision and reinstate tariff preferences under the “Everything But Arms” arrangement, in line with the provisions of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences.

COVID19: EU allocates Kyrgyzstan €36M aid

Аs part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak in Kyrgyz Republic, a support package of €36 million will assist the gouverment of the Central Asian country in addressing immediate needs in the health sector and in its short- and longer-term socio-economic recovery. The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell discussed the importance of intensified regional cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus, and welcomed the commitment of Central Asian leaders in this respect.

On 7 May, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, held a phone call with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, Chingiz Aidarbekov. They discussed the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and the EU’s support to Kyrgyzstan in that context, as well as the EU-Kyrgyzstan bilateral agenda and broader regional issues.

The high diplomat conveyed the EU’s strong solidarity with Kyrgyzstan in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The High Representative stressed that the EU continued to be a reliable and committed partner for countries around the world, including Kyrgyzstan and the other countries in the region.

High Representative Borrell and Foreign Minister Aidarbekov welcomed progress in EU-Kyrgyzstan relations, which is centred around a broad reform agenda, sustainable development, and shared principles and values, including human rights, as illustrated by the initialling last year of an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

Josep Borrell welcomed the willingness of Kyrgyzstan to sign the agreement by the end of the year and stressed the importance of developing bilateral relations across all areas, as well as regional cooperation under the EU’s Central Asia Strategy.

EU supports Afghanistan peace process

We then discussed our support to the Afghanistan peace process. You might have seen the conclusions that have been adopted that highlight the concrete actions that the European Union is willing and ready to take in support of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, hopefully to be started already next week –  as it was announced that intra-Afghan negotiations might start already next week” the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said, while concluding the work of the meeting of Foreign ministers Council in Luxembourg.

“We have been supporting enormously the work of the Afghan legitimate authorities in their preparation for that. I am glad to see that yesterday, President of Afghanistan, Ashraf] Ghani announced the formation of the negotiating team and a senior council to lead them. I really hope that, also following our talks in Kabul a couple of weeks ago, this can open the way for negotiations that can lead to peace in Afghanistan without pre-judging neither the electoral process nor the achievements that the Afghan population has managed to reach, in particular on the rights of women, minorities and human rights in general terms.”

The Council recommends that direct negotiations between Afghans, with the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban at their core begin as soon as possible.

It confirms the EU’s readiness to support the peace process and its implementation, wit the aim of preserving and building on the political, economic and social achievements of the people of Afghanistan since 2001, which should be irreversible. The EU stands ready to support the following aspects of the process:

  • to help make the peace process inclusive;
  • to assist with reforms, including security sector reform;
  • to act as a guarantor of a peace process, if requested by the parties;
  • to assist with reintegration of fighters and their families and
  • to promote regional trade and connectivity.

New Eurasian security architecture

‘Olympic Circles’ of Eurasian Stability OPINION  Dr Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann 

There are missing links in the security architecture of the European, Eurasian and Central Asian spaces that needs to be fixed in order to avoid a further fragmentation of the European continent between Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asian alliances (See map Alliances and major zones of instability in a multicentric world). How this new geopolitical architecture could look like in the long term ?

Synergy is needed between the various actors to achieve geopolitical stability on the Eurasian continent. On a longer term basis, a new Eurasian geopolitical architecture based on a new doctrine of overlapping circles of international organizations would be a major factor for developing and improving Eurasian security (diagram: Overlapping Circles of World stability and Peace). The diagram illustrates the need for a new “European security treaty” with a Eurasian reach, and a new “Central Asian security treaty”.

Map 1 a

We also have to assume that an enlargement of Euro-Atlantic institutions (NATO-EU-OSCE) to the whole of the Eurasian continent is impossible. Firstly, the individual EU and NATO member states disagree on further enlargement. Secondly, it would be impossible for these Euro-Atlantic institutions to manage the geopolitical diversity of the Eurasian continent. This new security architecture is based on the “geographical tightening” principle. Geographical proximity would be a central criterion to build regional alliances in order to foster stability and prevent any further Eurasian fragmentation.

Maps 2 a

This architecture is aimed at promoting synergies between interleaved organisations like NATO, EU, OSCE, SCO, CIS, OTSC, EEU, OIC and stabilize the overlapping security spaces. The role of UN would be crucial as a forum to manage this diversity and identify convergence, divergence, competition and/or complementarity. It should lead to greater levels of stability. In-between spaces between these structures would be subject to common stabilization policies or “non-aggression agreements”.

Map 3 a

This netting of institutions resembles the “Olympic circles” (Olympic circles of Eurasian stability). The described configuration would be adapted to the emerging multi centric world to maintain a balance between the different states, alliances and political and security institutions.

Map 4

 

 

 

 

EU to open mission in Mongolia

The decision to open a Delegation in Ulaanbaatar underscores the significant progress that has been made in developing EU-Mongolia relations. The establishment of an EU Delegation in Ulaanbaatar will allow both sides to step up their political dialogue and cooperation and will pave the way for the further strengthening of the partnership.

“The European Union is delivering on a promise to open a fully-fledged delegation in Mongolia – a democratic country strategically located between China and Russia and an important partner for us”, – the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker said. –  “I have visited Mongolia three times, the first in 1998 and most recently in 2016. The wonderful progress of this country and its development deserves our warmest congratulations, and certainly merits a full-time European Union presence.”

Mongolia has an important role in a complex region, with a unique geostrategic position”, – the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said. “This Delegation represents an investment for the European Union in view of strengthening our relationship with Mongolia, and a commitment to the people of the country. Soon we will also sign our new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which is a further demonstration of the importance we place on developing our close ties.”

Mogherini decision  follows the agreement of the Commission and the Council of the European Union and will be implemented in the course of 2017.

 

EU-China Summit in Brussels

The 19th bilateral summit between the EU and China will take place on 1-2 June in Brussels. The aim will be to advance on the strategic partnership between the EU and China.

Trade, climate change and migration will be among the issues to be covered during the summit. It will also be an opportunity to discuss foreign policy and security challenges.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will represent the European Union. China will be represented by Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

 

The 12th EU-China business summit will take place in the margins of the summit. The summit provides a platform for discussion on the economic relationship between China and Europe. (PHOTO: Illustration)

Tusk vs China, Russia, Islam and… Trump!

Poland's PM Tusk delivers a speech during a ceremony at the EU Parliament in Brussels

Today the president of the European Council President Donald Tusk said the  U.S. President Donald Trump has joined Russia, China and radical Islam among threats to Europe and called on Europeans to stick together to avoid domination by three other continental powers.

In a letter to national leaders before a summit that he will chair in Malta on Friday 3/2/2017 to prepare the Union’s future after Britain leaves, the conservative former Polish prime minister said Trump’s more protectionist trade policy offered the EU a chance and it should do more now to set up free trade deals.

According to Tusk’s vision the EU faces its biggest challenges in its 60-year history challenged by an “assertive China”, “Russia’s aggressive policy” toward its neighbors, “radical Islam” fuelling anarchy in the Middle East and Africa were key external threats. The together with “worrying declarations” by the new American administration, continued Tusk, all these factors make our future “highly unpredictable”.

Kyrgyzstan: new education system

kyrgyz-students

 Birgit Wetzel, OPINON

The shock sits deep, even today, seven years later.

Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan took the final place in the Pisa test, the students had the worst results from 75 participating countries. That was in 2010. The leaders of the country awoke. They had to do something, but how?

“So, this is the main message from PISA: stay ambitious; Work harder to reach your full potential, no matter how you get out of the miserable situation.“ the study says.

The situation was difficult for the small country with its population of about 5 million, whose high mountains cover the vast majority of the country, whose rugged borders separate ethnic groups and whose neighbors show little willingness to cross-border cooperation on all sides. The state fund was weak, ground treasures are few.

Co-operation in Central Asia was difficult after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nationalities rediscovered their peculiarities, set boundaries, and marched against each other. National leaders in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan rivaled over power and influence.

While new, stiff or rigid structures were being established in the three large territories, the Kyrgyz drove their leaders out of office when they were corrupted or no longer driven by the will of the people. Revolutions shook the capital Bishkek until the path to self-determination and democracy stabilized.

It should go further, and education plays a decisive role. Kyrgyzstan has a young population – the average age is 24. Until now, half of the country´s work force works abroad, mostly in Russia. In order to raise creativity, to create jobs within the country, and to regulate the destiny of the state itself, Kyrgyz youth needs new and better educatio, kindergartens, schools and universities.

The Pisa results gave the decisive impulse. A panel of experts was established along the lines of the groups that the government had already used for reforms in other areas in May 2014. The new Education Public Advisory Council, or EPAC for short, creates transparency and identifies the necessary reforms, informs the public and brings forward the proposals for improvements to governmental bodies. There they are discussed and implemented, that is the goal.

The new body EPAC has already brought forward a lot of weak spots on which urgent action must be taken to ensure that Kyrgyzstab has a future as an independent country. Where, what, when should happen and how, that is where the panel works now. The EU supports the necessary steps for education reforms with programs such as the project “Fostering and Monitoring the Education Reforms in the Kyrgyz Republic” co-funded by Kyrgyz NGO BIOM and Konrad Adenauer.

Coordinator and Assistant to the Board of Reform is Khanat Kubatbekov. He welcomes the work of the reform groups and notes that Kyrgyzstan is the only country in Central Asia where public councils or reform groups would work successfully. It was not until 2014 that they were launched. Therefore, their tasks and objectives are not yet known to all. Trust still needs to grow. This sometimes makes their work difficult. At the same time, he considers the work to be important: problems are identified, examined more closely, research results and experts are consulted. As a result, the government receives suggestions for improvement. It is not always easy to find a common language, he admits, but the biggest problem is corruption.

This is what other members of the 11-member EPAC Group are also aware of. They have already set up a long list of topics: several thousand children do not attend school, the average age of teachers is 50 years, which is too high, while the salaries are too low. The education of teachers must be updated, as many of them teach with old methods and standards. No wonder, because there are far too few new books. Even among the students, only 80% are proud owners of schoolbooks. Modern works should soon be downloaded via the Internet, interactive books, which will also be available in Kyrgyz, Russian and Uzbek. But since only 8% of the schools have Internet so far, there is still much to be done.

The school hours are to be extended, the preschool period will increase again from three to 12 months, the offer for a second language should rise and teachers should receive further training. Because it costs a lot of money, international donors such as the UN, UNICEF, US AID, and the EU are providing funding in various areas.

Until all reforms are implemented, it will probably take seven years, expert expect. But EPAC is the driver of modernization and the reforms are running.

Each child is now registered and is accompanied on his school career. Some 75,000 teachers received training in regional centers over the last three years. The Pisa shock was a healing shock, which the EPAC met with great energy. A lot has happened in a short time, but many things still have to be done.

Our children need competences, says Larissa Marchenko, the education expert. The state is being transformed into a democracy, the economy is transferred into a market economy. Since, the children need the appropriate knowledge. They must be able to compete on the international labor market. Many people still leave because they find no suitable job in Kyrgyzstan. This is to change. When children leave the school, they should enter the labor market or continue training. In any case, however, they should be able to make decisions as a socialized citizen of a modern democracy.

Birgit Wetzel, Berlin-Bishkek