The group created by the Chinese with the countries of central, eastern and southern Europe is reduced from 17+1 to 14+1. China’s military threats to Taiwan and partial Chinese support for the Russian war in Ukraine have had decisive weight. The EU remains cautious about the crisis in the Taiwan Strait.
Rome () – Estonia and Latvia are leaving the 16+1, the informal forum that brings together China and 16 states from central, eastern and southern Europe. The two Baltic countries announced it yesterday at the same time. According to Tallinn and Riga, participation in the Beijing-led cooperation group is “no longer in line” with their strategic goals in the current international framework.
The 16+1 – which Lithuania abandoned last year – has long been in the crosshairs of the European Union, which sees it as China’s tool to divide the EU and has led some member states to align with Chinese positions. The decision by Estonia and Latvia comes as Western criticism is mounting over Beijing’s mounting military pressure on Taiwan and China’s (so far partial) support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Estonians and Latvians have made it clear that they will continue to work for “constructive and pragmatic” relations with the Chinese government, respecting the norms of international order and human rights.
Both of them are dissatisfied with the trade imbalance with China, a problem that has led other member countries of the 16+1 to review their relations with Beijing, especially the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia.
In another blow against China, the South China Morning Post reveals that members of the European Parliament’s Trade Committee have confirmed a visit to Taiwan planned for December. Following the crisis triggered by the recent visit to Taipei by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Beijing has instructed foreign politicians to avoid missions on Taiwanese soil.
It was precisely the Taiwan issue that caused the breakdown of relations between China and Lithuania. In November, the Taiwanese government opened a mission called “Taiwanese” in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. That prompted an immediate response from Beijing, which says using the name is a violation of the “one China policy.” For the Chinese Communist Party, the island is a “rogue” province that must be reunified by force if necessary. Since then, the Chinese have completely canceled trade relations with Lithuania, a coercive action that the EU denounced before the World Trade Organization.
Despite the position adopted by the Baltic countries, the main countries of the Union have remained very cautious in the face of Beijing’s massive naval maneuvers around Taiwan. There are also doubts about the degree of harshness of the European response in the event of a Chinese invasion of the island.
According to Marc Cheng, executive director of the EU Center in Taipei, the recent Chinese maneuvers will not accelerate the negotiations between Taipei and the Union on investment and microchips, since both issues need a stable scenario to move forward. However, in statements to , Cheng explained that “the exercises of communist China could push the EU to play a more active role in security matters on the world stage, facilitating a greater debate among member states and in the European Parliament to strengthen ties with Taiwan.