The summit meeting held last month in N’Djamena, Chad, between the G5 Sahel states and partner nations was, for the participants, a chance to applaud many purported gains since the January 2020 Pau Summit as well as the challenges ahead. It was also the occasion to repeatedly applaud the efforts of the European Union as well as EU member states in the Sahel.
The relations of the European Union (EU) with Libya over the last 30 years have been comparatively more difficult than any other Northern African country. Following the ousting of Gaddafi, European states were divided on the Libyan issue and have since proceeded with no clear sense of direction. Divisions among member states have resulted in an EU policy which can be characterized as having been both incoherent and often contradictory over the last ten years. However, there were some limited periods in which EU countries reached a common stance on Libya.
Italy-China relations have experienced significant shifts since the beginning of President Xi Jinping’s mandate, partly following the differing “Chinese views” of governing coalitions over those years, and a widespread outdated perception of the need to adapt bilaterally to the so-called “China’s rise”. Those swings have resulted in a very confused perception of Italy’s “China policy” on the part of both China itself and Italy’s European partners.
When Covid-19 hit the Balkans, it was too soon to foresee that besides local health systems the pandemic would impact regional geopolitics too. In the longstanding instability also caused by stagnation in the EU integration process for Balkan countries, China exploited the situation to increase its influence in the region.
Tracing the outline of British-Chinese relations as we enter 2021 is akin to surveying the landscape after an earthquake. The global geopolitical topography remains uncertain, but the triple trauma of Brexit ambiguity, a Trump presidency, and the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, all appear to be on the way out. In late 2017, amid what remained of the Sino-British golden era’s afterglow, I was asked to write an article discussing the year ahead.
Since establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1973, Spain has seen itself as an honest broker, maintaining a position of friendship with the PRC (above all through a scrupulous policy of “non-interference in internal affairs” vital to the PRC such as Taiwan or human rights) but never managing to establish a true partnership.
2020 has been a challenging year for the world economy. Although the magnitude of the shock triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic differed widely from one country to another, no economy was left unscathed.
Germany got its way. Well, German business with business interests in China did. The German EU Council Presidency ended with a big bang on December 30, when the EU and China signed their long-awaited bilateral trade and investment agreement, the “Comprehensive Agreement on Investment” (CAI). The agreement had been negotiated since 2014 and its adoption at the very end of last year came as a surprise.
The EU priorities for trade and investment relations with China are defined by the March 2019 Communication ‘EU-China – A strategic outlook’. In such Communication, the EU openly recognised China as a ‘strategic rival’ and ‘economic competitor’, while reiterating its importance as a “cooperation partner”.
Relations between China and Europe have undoubtedly been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impact. The Comprehensive Agreement on Investment signed at the end of 2020, for example, marks a change of pace in the pursuit of the Union's economic interests towards Beijing.
One month after the Egyptian revolution succeeded and ousted long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak on 11 February 2011, I was in Cairo with a delegation of the European Parliament. From the reactions of many young revolutionaries we understood that they didn’t feel any support from the West in their struggle for freedom and democracy. They had done this themselves and they were proud of it. During a meeting with prime minister and later presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik, another message was given to us, surprised Europeans: “You supported Mubarak.
At the end of 2019, when the current College of Commissioners of the European Commission took office, several changes in the EU’s international cooperation policy were on their way. President Von der Leyen sent Ms. Jutta Urpilainen a mission letter for a new post: the Commissioner for International Partnerships (previously titled for International Cooperation and Development). That letter clearly stated the need to move away from a “donor-recipient relationship” to “partnerships of equals” between the EU and developing countries.