In addition to attending EU foreign leaders’ meetings at the Council of Europe, Biden also met with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Brussels to meet with NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg, European Foreign Minister Borrell and European Commission President Van der Leyen. Blingen also briefly met with the foreign ministers of the four viceroys, including Minister Dom Bedek.
Two top American politicians were allowed in Brussels, which is more than the minimum hospitality required for diplomatic protocol. The main reason for this excitement is relatively simple: Biden is not Trump. Former US President Trump approached European allies from a “bulldog” position, sometimes resembling a street boss: “Either you are with us or you are against us. Then you pay too much for it!”
Biden identifies a consensus approach and sees harsh final warnings as the last resort of his bargaining chip, and not only that. Although Biden’s foreign policy did not differ much from Trump’s (especially among European NATO members on the 2% commitment to defense spending and the constant pressure to meet opposition to Russia’s North Stream 2 pipeline), the U.S. president and his foreign secretary negotiated a change in approach. Especially on the very surface issue of policy on China.
The long shadow of China
Attitudes towards Beijing are one of the key issues. This may seem paradoxical, as last week the Union and China announced a breakthrough in negotiations on a seven-year comprehensive agreement on investment (CAI).
The so-called investment agreement was strongly supported by Germany and France, whose multinationals would benefit greatly from the easy access to the Chinese market. America, on the other hand, was very critical of it, mainly because of its time. It was clear that the Chinese party’s sudden desire to reach a quick agreement stemmed mainly from its desire to avoid close strategic and economic integration between the EU and the newly elected (but not yet ruling) Fiden and his administration.
This reconciliation between Europe and China has a medieval life. The CAI has not yet been approved by the European Parliament, and the EU’s diplomatic sanctions on China on March 22 over the relentless persecution of Chinese Uyghurs in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang are the last nail in the coffin. In addition to the EU’s first human rights sanctions against China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, other Western nations have joined the EU: the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.
The sanctions barred the travel and foreign assets of four top Chinese officials directly responsible for running “re-education” camps for Uyghurs (in connection with which Trump’s foreign minister, Pompeo, spoke of genocide some time ago). The Chinese panel responded by imposing equal sanctions on ten Europeans, including five MEPs, accused of deliberately spreading “disgusting lies and misinformation.” In addition to burying the CAI, this diplomatic confrontation reminded China of the frantic and inconsistent response that the European alliance with the United States has many advantages.