Climate cooperation meeting + Hong Kong + EU Indo-Pacific strategy
Merkel, Macron and Xi discuss climate cooperation
On April 16, Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Emmanuel Macron and President Xi Jinping participated in a video conference to discuss climate policies, EU-China relations and anti-epidemic cooperation.
What you need to know
- On climate, Merkel and Macron welcomed China’s pledge to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060. Macron lobbied for joint support of green development in Africa. Xi announced that China will ratify the Kigali amendment of the Montreal Protocol and pledge the phasing out of harmful refrigerant gases. Xi also criticized the EU’s plan for a carbon border adjustment mechanism, a tax on goods imported from countries with low environmental standards.
- The Chinese readout suggested that the leaders discussed the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) which was put on hold following the sanctions imposed on March 22. CAI was no mention in the French and German readout. Other issues that were discussed include the COVAX facility, and regional stability issues regarding Myanmar, North Korea and Iran.
The climate cooperation meeting offered another opportunity to de-escalate the tensions within EU-China relations and keep the dialogue channels open, albeit in a format including only the two most influential EU capitals. Beijing continues to attempt to leverage such exchanges for its own political goals. For instance, by trying to portray the videoconference as a “climate summit,” a supposed alternative to the virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate organized by Biden administration on April 22-23.
We will explore the practicalities of the EU-China cooperation on climate in the upcoming MERICS EU-China Briefing to which you can subscribe to here.
EU member states fail to agree on punitive measures over Hong Kong electoral reforms
The EU27 failed to agree on measures to punish Beijing in response to sweeping changes to the Hong Kong electoral system, which were expected to be announced by the EU Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on April 19.
What you need to know
- The package was to include the suspension of the remaining extradition agreements with China by 10 member states, an intensification of engagement with Hong Kong civil society by arranging a high-level visit and support for the arrival of qualified workers and students to the EU. According to reporting, at least Hungary opposed the package, which required unanimous support.
- On April 16, the European External Action Service released a statement protesting the sentencing of 12 pro-democracy Hong Kong leaders involved in the 2019 protests, these include Martin Lee Chu-ming, Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and Joshua Wong. The Mission of China to the EU opposed the statement, stating that the EU “grossly interferes in the judicial activities” of Hong Kong and “gravely tramples on the rule of law under the pretext of its own values.”
The obstruction of the package gives those seeking to de-escalate EU-China tensions more time to do so. The issue is expected to be revisited at the May FAC. It would therefore follow on from government consultations between Germany and China scheduled for the end of the month. The consultations are likely to serve as a platform to discuss potential pathways to mend EU-China relations.
EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy outline released – Key takeaways on China
On April 19, the Council of the EU released its 10-page conclusion on the “EU Strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.” The Council tasked the Commission and the High Representative to propose a complete strategy by September. In the meantime, the EU27-India summit, scheduled for May in Porto, was moved online over the deteriorating Covid-19 situation in India.
What you need to know
Key goals outlined in the document that are relevant in the context of China:
- Security – Increase maritime presence in the region through cooperation with like-minded partners to support freedom of navigation and related resilience of trade routes. EU member states are to contribute on a voluntary basis.
- Supply chains – Diversify sensitive industry supply chains and limit strategic dependencies on specific providers of critical raw materials. CAI was mentioned as one of the examples of the EU’s trade and investment agreements in the region.
- Digital – Promote digital governance standards in emerging technologies in line with the EU’s values and standards. Cooperate with like-minded countries on the security of supply chains for 5G networks and “global, open, free, stable and secure cyberspace.”
- Inclusivity – Developing EU’s position in the region as a “cooperative partner” engaging with “all partners in the region” while forwarding the bloc’s values and interests.
While this is not an agenda targeting China, it certainly is one which supports a rules-based multilateralism that Beijing is seeking to reshape. EU’s plans to diversify supply chains away from China, to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and to promote an open and free cyberspace are unlikely to be met with enthusiasm in Beijing despite the EU’s claims of for inclusivity.
- Council of the European Union: EU Strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific - Council conclusions
- SCMP: EU to increase presence in Indo-Pacific under new strategy
- Euractiv: India’s PM Narendra Modi will not attend Porto summit
Huawei alleged access to Dutch network provides grounds for tighter telecom security
On April 17, Dutch newspaper de Volksrant revealed a 2010 risk assessment report suggesting that Huawei had unrestricted access to the network of one of the leading Dutch telecom providers - KPN.
What you need to know
- The 2010 risk assessment report, commissioned to Capgemini by KPN, revealed that Huawei had access to listen in on calls conducted via KPN’s network, used at the time also by Dutch government. Moreover, Huawei also had access to the records of numbers legally tapped by the Dutch intelligence services. KPN kept the report confidential but maintains that it shared the conclusions with Dutch intelligence and improved its network security. Huawei denies having any unauthorized access to KPN's network.
- De Volkskrant claims to have sources in KPN alerting that despite security adjustments Huawei employees still enjoy “administrator rights” and manage the 4G mobile network. KPN denies this claim. The Radiocommunications Agency Netherlands is examining the safety of KPN’s network, initial results are expected in a month. Dutch 5G regulations restrict usage of Huawei equipment in the core of 5G networks. KPN plans to build the core of its 5G network using Ericsson’s equipment.
Whether Huawei did make use of the access is secondary to the fact that a European telecom provider may have misguided the public about the security of its network. If proven true, the allegations against KPN would serve as a case for increased public supervision in the implementation of 5G safety regulations. This is the very topic discussed in the German Bundestag, as parliamentarians are seeking to oblige network operators to notify the Ministry of Interior of any components they install to the core of their 5G networks for the first time.
- de Volksrant [NL]: Huawei was able to eavesdrop on all calls from KPN mobile customers, including those of the prime minister
- de Volksrant [NL]: Huawei still manages the core of KPN's mobile network
- Reuters: Dutch telecoms firm KPN: no sign Huawei has improperly monitored users
- Handelsblatt [DE]: 5G network: Coalition sharpens test procedures for Huawei