What were the top stories in Europe this week?

Ursula von der Leyen during her arrival in China.
Ursula von der Leyen during her arrival in China. Copyright NG HAN GUAN/AFP
By Stefan Grobe
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Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen tried to convince Xi Jinping to side with Europe and try to end the conflict in Ukraine.


From Finland joining NATO to Ursula von der Leyen and Emmanuel Macron's trip to China, here's a look at the top stories in Brussels this week.

Finland on Tuesday officially became the 31st member of the NATO military alliance.

"The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins," Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said in a statement.

He added however that as their applications were made together in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, "Finland's membership is not complete without that of Sweden."

Turkey and Hungary's opposition has blocked the entrance of the Nordic country for now.

Both Finland and Sweden applied to join the transatlantic military alliance in May 2022.

Turkey opposed the entrance of both countries into the alliance, stating they were supporting groups Ankara considers "terrorist". Later, it lifted its opposition towards Helsinki.

But for Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary-general, the late entrance of Sweden does not mean the country is left on its own.

"We should not have the impression that Sweden is left alone. No, Sweden is very much inside NATO. Integration into military (and) civilian structures. Allies are ready to act and it's inconceivable that there are going to be any threats and military attacks against Sweden without NATO reacting," he said.

The alliance now hopes Hungary and Turkey will have ratified Sweden's accession by mid-July, when leaders from NATO countries will gather in Vilnius, Lithuania, for a summit.

Travelling East

All eyes were on China in the second half of this week.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen held two meetings with Xi Jinping on Thursday, one held in a trilateral format with French President Emmanuel Macron as well as a separate one-on-one meeting. She also met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

"I want to be very clear on that one, that arming the aggressor is a clear violation of international law. It's the aggressor and he should never be armed. And this would indeed significantly harm the relationship between the European Union and China," von der Leyen told reporters in Beijing.

She also urged Beijing to use its influence to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from acting on his recent threat to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.

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