The Slovenia Times

Debate on EU in new reality focuses on China, multilateralism


On the one hand, China is a key partner of the EU but also a strong economic rival and an adversary in terms of democratisation and human rights, RTV Slovenija correspondent in Brussels Igor Jurič illustrated.

Substantial support from the state makes Chinese companies strong competition but at the same time, Beijing has been restricting EU companies' access to Chinese markets, said Jurič.

Jernej Müller of the Foreign Ministry said that there is an apparent trend of China increasing its economic and investment presence in Europe and the EU has started to address this.

However, decisions in the EU must be made in agreement by member states and the process is much different from that in nation states. "Other players are aware that the EU is not a country but a union" and they try to take advantage of this, said Müller.

Meanwhile, Zlatko Šabič of the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences said that "the EU is not a player in international relations because it does not have a single voice".

The bloc is not uniform in terms of its values and norms, it is not consistent in its foreign policy and is also not capable of enforcing it, Šabič said.

He believes that the bloc's problem in terms of relations with China is that the EU seems almost afraid. "The future of the EU's relations with China depends on the EU... China deals with whomever it believes it can" and is now fulfilling its interests through ties with individual member states.

This is pragmatic and sensible from China's perspective, but "unfortunately also allowed by the EU", said Šabič.

The debate also discussed threats to multilateralism and the possibility of a new world order resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Šabič said that the pandemic was only one of the factors changing the global balance of power, also pointing to the roles of the most influential political leaders. The EU has found itself in "impossible relations" as it faces the autocrats Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, but also Donald Trump, said Šabič.

Commenting on Trump's decision that the US withdraws from several international organisations, Šabič said this was a bad move. It gives more power to whoever stays in the organisation and Trump is doing exactly what China wants.

Müller moreover said that growing stronger, China had been "actively changing the context of multilateral organisations", an issue the EU and the US would have to respond effectively.

The debate also touched on topics involving Slovenia, as MEP Tanja Fajon (SD/S&D) expressed concern over Slovenia coming closer to the Visegrad Group after the Democrats (SDS) had taken power in March. She believes this means Slovenia is drifting away from the EU's core because Hungary and Poland are facing proceedings for violating basic EU values.

She also expressed concern that Slovenia's foreign policy had become uncoordinated, among other things because of Prime Minister Janez Janša's apparent support for Trump. She wondered where this would be diverted if Trump fails to be re-elected.

MEP Milan Zver (SDS/EPP) on the other hand advocated for stronger ties with the US, saying these had been "malnourished" in the past.

He expressed support for Slovenia's foreign policy and regular meetings with the Visegrad Group as well as neighbouring countries, and said that the Visegrad Group was not an alternative to the EU.


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