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EU presses China on market access, human rights during virtual summit

Issued on: 14/09/2020 – 21:06

The European Union on Monday urged China to further open its markets..

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The European Union on Monday urged China to further open its markets up to European companies and prove that it really does want to secure an investment agreement this year with the bloc, its largest trading partner.

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After a two-hour video conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said they also pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping on human rights and the need for international cooperation to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

As an economic competitor to China, the 27-nation EU has struggled to balance its commercial interests against its concerns for human rights in the country, particularly as Beijing has grown more assertive in recent years.

Europe is a player, not a playing field.

Today we took another step in forging a more balanced relationship with China.

A relationship that delivers on our mutual commitments & generates concrete results for both sides. ????#EUChina pic.twitter.com/R0FWTB0UZK

— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) September 14, 2020

Von der Leyen, who leads the EUs executive body that manages trade on behalf of the member countries, noted that trade and investment talks have been stepped up but despite some recent progress “a lot, a lot, still remains to be done”.

“The European market is open, and European companies must have fair and equal access to the Chinese market in return,” she told reporters. Xi did not take part in the post-summit news conference.

Citing a lack of opportunities in China's communications, IT, biotech and health care sectors, she said, “We see that our investors just face too many barriers in these key sectors, and for us, with market access, its not just a question of meeting halfway, but its a question of rebalancing the asymmetry.”

“China has to convince us that it is worth having an investment agreement,” von der Leyen said, acknowledging the struggle involved in securing one by the end of the year as the Europeans had hoped.

Taking part in our video conference with Chinese President Xi. Looking forward to frank & open discussions. Engagement at the highest level with China is crucial if we are to promote European economic interests, protect our climate & defend fundamental values and rights. #EUChina pic.twitter.com/n3eyWwckKO

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 14, 2020

Turning to human rights issues, Michel said the three had a “quite intense discussion” with Xi, notably on China's restive far western province of Xinjiang, where authorities have cracked down on local Uighurs. Michel said Xi appears willing to allow visits into the region by diplomats to check whats happening. Merkel said the details must still be thrashed out.

Chinese officials have repeatedly denied allegations of genocide, forced sterilisation and the mass detention of nearly 1 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang as lies fabricated by anti-China forces. They claim that the Uighurs are treated equally, and that Beijing always protects the rights of China's ethnic minorities.

Michel said the Europeans also underlined that Chinas national security law for Hong Kong “continues to raise grave concerns”, thatRead More – Source

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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.

Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.

Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.

But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.

One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.

And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.

TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.

Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.

But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.

France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.

Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".

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Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.

With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".

On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."

On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."

Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet

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Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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