June 29, 2018 / 5:12 AM / 5 months ago

China assures EU of good intent at Eastern Europe summits

BEIJING (Reuters) - China recognises that there are worries about its cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries, but is not seeking to undermine the European Union, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Friday ahead of a leaders’ summit in Bulgaria.

FILE PHOTO: Red flags flutter outside the Great Hall of the People before the second plenary session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, China March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

China has courted central and eastern European states, including with annual summits, which has fed concern in Western European capitals that Beijing is seeking to divide the continent and complaints about Beijing’s push for control of joint investment projects.

Speaking as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gets ready to go to this year’s “16+1” summit between China and Central and Eastern European countries in Sofia next week, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Chao said he was aware of the concerns, and gave assurances of China’s support for European integration.

“Certainly, there has been some worry recently in some European countries about the 16+1 cooperation,” Wang told a news briefing, adding that in central and eastern European this mechanism had been broadly welcomed.

“A unified, stable, prosperous EU is in line with China’s basic interests. China’s position on this has never changed,” he said.

“16+1 cooperation is open and transparent. We believe that promoting 16+1 cooperation and promoting China-Europe ties are not mutually exclusive,” he added.

During China’s cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries, China respects the EU’s jurisdiction over trade, investment and other areas and EU rules on government purchasing, Wang said.

Li will also be visiting Germany, where he will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel.

China has sought to make common ground with the EU amid both of their trade disputes with the United States.

While the EU shares many of the same concerns as Washington over market access, intellectual property rights and forced technology transfers, it has not joined with the United States in threatening punitive unilateral tariffs.

China and the EU will hold their own summit in Beijing in mid July.

Wider EU-China summits have become more tense in recent years, with the past two meetings failing to produce a joint statement amid disagreements over the South China Sea and trade.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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