EU top diplomat denies giving China a pass

epa08127800 Empty chairs are in front of the European flag before the debate on the consequences of the latest confrontation between the US and Iran at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, 14 January 2020. EPA-EFE/PATRICK SEEGER

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The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament raised concerns with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell over allegations that the EU’s diplomatic arm toned down criticism of China in a recently published report following pressure by Beijing.

News outlet Politico claimed that top Chinese diplomats muscled in on the European Union External Action agency (EEAS) to dilute harsh assessment of the Chinese government’s role in disinformation campaigns targeting EU citizens, after the portal itself leaked the upcoming document. A softer variant of the report was eventually published by the EEAS.

In the debate with MEPs, Mr Borrell dismissed accusations that the External Action report was altered to appease China and argued that the agency produced two documents – an internal version and a public version. The leaked report, insisted the High Representative, was the one intended for internal consumption.

The Chair of the EP Committee David McAllister said that the published report uncovered “troubling” attempts by Russia and Moscow to take advantage of the crisis situation. 

“The EU must stay free of undue political and economic influence from the outside. Democracy is not an empty word,” warned Mr McAllister at the start of the meeting. MEPs quizzed the Mr Borrell on details about the editing process of the EEAS document, the reports about Chinese demands and how the agency had reacted to pressure.

While some committee members expressed deep concern over the allegations, others said that the media reports appear to be “vastly overblown”, pointing out that most of the critical issues remain intact in the final text.

Vie: EU Parliament

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