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Coronavirus: EU regret after state-run newspaper China Daily removes COVID-19 mention from op-ed

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By Isabelle Kumar, Laura Ruiz Trullols
Josep Borrell
Josep Borrell   -   Copyright  Virginia Mayo/Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The EU has expressed regret after its opinion article in the China Daily newspaper was watered down to remove references to the coronavirus outbreak beginning in the country.

It was co-authored by the EU's ambassador to China, Nicolas Chapuis, and the bloc's 27 ambassadors to Beijing.

The version that appeared in the state-run newspaper the China Daily was edited to take out the mention of COVID-19's origins.

An unedited version appeared on the website of the European External Action Service, the EU's foreign affairs ministry

It read: "But the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, and its subsequent spread to the rest of the world over the past three months..."

Virginie Battu-Henriksson, a foreign affairs spokeswoman for the European Commission, said: "This op-ed was drafted and agreed on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the EU-China diplomatic relations, and we regret that this joint op-ed, was not published in full by China Daily," 

The news comes just a weeks after the EU’s Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell admitted that Beijing put pressure on them before publishing a report on disinformation.

Speaking to Euronews, Borrell said it was common to apply pressure in diplomatic relationships but admitted more could have been done to explain how the case developed.

"Yes, we have been doing the necessary but maybe it has not been enough," said Borrell.

"It is usual that powers put pressure, using the diplomatic channels. When someone is not happy, they tell us. We do the same thing! The important thing is not how do you receive pressure but how do you react to the pressure."

Beyond pressure from Beijing, Borrell said China remains an important partner for the European Union

"I am not calling China a systemic rival today, it was written on the strategic report that the EU delivered last year. There is nothing new on that. As I said, it is considered not only a systemic rival but also an important partner, a competitor, a trade partner, there are many different things... don't look at China with a unilateral approach, as I said, it is a complex relationship."

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, diplomatic relations between China and the EU have fluctuated. In recent days, the EU has backed calls for an independent look into what allowed the pandemic to spread.