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Lithuania calls on EU to defend trade order against Beijing

Published on 13 Jan. 2022 at 17: 2022Updated on 13 Jan. 2022 at 18: 54

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, a country of 2.7 million inhabitants located on the eastern periphery of the EU, is this weekend at the heart of structuring discussions for the Union, within the framework of an informal meeting of the heads of diplomacy of the Twenty-Seven in Brest.

Vilnius, which is being retaliated against by Beijing for leaving the forum last year ” +1” which brings together China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, then gave the green light to the opening on its soil of a representation of Taiwan under the name of “Taiwan Representative Office”, explains to its partners that the Chinese sanctions, beyond its particular case, threaten the general organization of world trade.

The Chinese authorities have not only blocked Lithuanian exports at their customs, but also products from other EU member states containing Lithuanian components. Gabrielius Landsbergis thus estimated in an interview with the “Financial Times” that Europe should “now provide a very clear answer and affirm that this is not a way of dealing with the internal market”.

Anti-Coercion Instrument

The European Commission did propose a new instrument called “anti-coercion” , in December, which must precisely respond to this type of situation, when a third State uses economic sanctions to influence European policies or threaten national capitals. But this tool still needs to be validated by the Twenty-Seven and MEPs.

Powerful Europe

France, which for years has held an offensive discourse on Europe as a power and has been exercising since the 1stst January the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, has here the opportunity to demonstrate its resolve by accelerating the negotiations between the Twenty-Seven on the text. According to our information, this is exactly his intention. “It’s the whole narrative around strategic autonomy that finds illustration here,” says Elvire Fabry, of the Jacques-Delors Institute. The EU is in a situation where it can only act collectively to defend the internal market, the backbone of the Union’s trade policy. »

That said, “we must not overlook the time that the discussions on the technical details of the regulations will take. These things take time”, warns Filip Medunic, from the ECFR (European Council on International Relations).

German firmness

The change of government in Germany should facilitate the process. Even if Angela Merkel had begun to stiffen her attitude towards Beijing, particularly under the influence of German industry worried about seeing the Chinese market close, the Scholz cabinet seems to be adopting an even firmer approach – at least its “green” component.

State Secretary Franziska Brantner, who works with Robert Habeck at the Superministry of Economy and Climate Action, visited Lithuania this week to discuss the situation – several German multinationals are feeling the effects of the embargo ( unofficial) Chinese.

The previous government implicitly criticized Vilnius for having strengthened its ties with Taipei without consulting its partners – and wanted to avoid other member states taking similar initiatives.

New Threats Laboratory

Lithuania has already been exposed, last year, to the instrumentalization of flows of migrants directed towards its borders by neighboring Belarus. This makes the Baltic country a laboratory for new threats to the EU in an international context characterized, unanimously by European diplomats, by “a hardening of the balance of power”. The Twenty-Seven must adopt in March a “strategic compass”, a sort of European White Paper which lists all these new challenges and examine the way to answer it.