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EU expresses 'grave concern' over developments in Hong Kong

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By Laura Ruiz y Trullols
Protest against China's national security legislation for the city, in Hong Kong, Friday, May 29, 2020.
Protest against China's national security legislation for the city, in Hong Kong, Friday, May 29, 2020.   -   Copyright  Kin Cheung/Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The EU has expressed 'grave concern' over developments in Hong Kong, but has stopped short of tabling sanctions on China.

After a videoconference with Foreign Affairs Ministers on Friday, the EU’s Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell defended the 'one country, two systems' principle but would not take the issue further.

"We will continue discussing, we will continue reaching out to Beijing," Borrell told reporters.

"Our reaction needs to be commensurate with the steps they have already been taking and we will continue trying to put pressure on the Chinese authorities in order to make them aware that this issue will affect the way we deal with some of the issues of mutual interest but there is nothing more on the agenda."

On the other side of the Atlantic, the US is taking a different approach.

Washington has reacted by declaring that the region is no longer sufficiently autonomous from China. It also threatened Beijing with trade sanctions.

With some EU economies heavily dependant on business with China, the bloc is struggling to find a unified voice.

EU-China relations will soon be the political hot potato for Germany. The country will be leading the EU Council from July and there are high hopes that these internal divisions will come to an end.

"If not Germany, then who else is able to try to do this?" asks MEP Urmas Paet (former Foreign Affairs Minister of Estonia). He adds that Germany cannot define policy on China alone.

"T`his also means that there is more and more understanding in the capitals of EU member states that efficient, well, policy efficient, relations with China demand Europe's common approach because Europe is strong only when we are united, also in relations with China."

The EU is trying to find a middle way between the U.S.-Chinese rivalry but the relationship with Beijing remains complicated.