By Philip Ebels
BRUSSELS – A three-day forum of political heavyweights from the EU and China ended on Wednesday with kind words at a half-hour press conference.
The EU-China High-Level Group, the second of its kind after a first encounter in Beijing last year, brought together the leaders of the big European political families and representatives of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
“We discussed EU-China co-operation, social development and reforms, the construction of democracy and legal systems, sustainable development, and global economic governance,” said MEP Reinhard Buetikofer of the Greens, who chaired the meeting.
The discussions were held in “a spirit of co-operation”, accoring to MEP Veronique De Keyser of the Socialist group in the parliament.
“Participants from both sides understand that only with constructive dialogue, mutual trust and tolerance can we enhance understanding, avoid misjudgement and lay a solid foundation for our partnership,” said Li Jinjun, deputy minister of the central committee of the CPC.
“To us Europeans, the forum has been a success. There is an evolution in the quality and the openness of the speeches. It is the liberty of the tone that marks this forum’s success,” said De Keyser.
“We used to just make our statements without there being much debate at all. But this time around, we really had an exchange of views, and I think that is great progress. [The forum] doesn’t lead to any concrete political outcome but it does add to understanding.” said Markus Loening, vice-president of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform party and German commissioner on human rights.
The forum’s busy programme, held nearly entirely behind closed doors, included a meeting with Jerzy Buzek, president of the European parliament, and speeches from several MEPs and EU trade commissioner Karel de Gught and social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor.
“The EU is committed to help China’s transition towards an open society, support China’s economic and social reforms, and integrate China even further into the world trading system,” said Andor.
Ways in which China might be able to help the EU, however, were not explored as much, according to De Keyser: “We didn’t talk much about how or whether China could contribute to the European bail-out fund, [the European Financial Stability Fund]. That subject wasn’t on the programme.”
True to the spirit of the meetings, Xie Duo, director-general of the financial market department of the People’s Bank of China, said that he trusts the euro will survive the crisis.
“We think that the crisis is temporary. We believe that European governments will find the way out of the crisis. We believe that the euro will be strong and stable. The Central Bank of China supports the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund for their support to the euro currency,” he said.
He further stated that the best way to stimulate the global economy is to stimulate growth at home (see video). “We also face a lot of problems in China. If we can successfully control the inflation in China, if we can successfully transform our economic development model, it will help the world economic recovery.”