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EU, China extend hands of friendship

(China Daily)

14:24, August 21, 2012

No visit to China, whatever the frequency, fails to cause a surprise as a historic phenomenon reflecting the new world situation.

China has already emerged with unusual strength, while we - Europeans of the Union - fight to avoid sinking, without finding the way. Set against an ascending process, that appears unstoppable, is a descending one, a loss of relevance, which we are unable to stop, much less reverse.

This time, the purpose of my visit to China was the start of a dialogue, which should allow both parties to obtain a deeper knowledge of reciprocal realities.

For Zheng Bijian, chairman of the China Institute of Innovation and Development Strategy, Beijing, and my counterpart at the dialogue, the initiative of mutual approach is reflected in a "decalogue" under a forceful and interesting idea: "to analyze the convergence of interests, with the aim of building lasting and solid communities of interests".

The 10 points of his strategy include China's own challenges in the short, medium and long terms, his vision about the problems of the European Union, including the debt crisis and the concerns about its more serious by-products of growth and employment, and his analysis of bilateral and global shared or shareable interests.

Zheng spoke on his own behalf, but he represented a strategic approach assumed by the Chinese authorities. My analysis of the European challenges, the perception about China, the potentialities of the relationship between both parties and the points of reciprocal interest in other areas of the world, was personal, with no representation. Perhaps the assignment to the Reflection Group on the Future of Europe, which I chaired between 2008 and 2010, weighs on the invitation to dialogue.

The first imbalance for the progress of a fruitful relationship for both parties are the speakers. In the EU, there are common institutions of representation: the European Commission and the Presidency of the Council of the EU - there is even a common document to define bilateral relationship, which is not comparable to the one I am mentioning on the Chinese part. But make no mistake, the EU does not have a true common strategy with China. Beyond what the treaties say, member states prioritize their bilateral and direct relationship with China, according to national, and not common, interests.

It is very difficult, under the circumstances, for China to regard the EU as a true speaker for the whole of the European area with a population of 500 million. Not because it may not wish to do so, for it proposes it and analyzes the realities and potentialities of that relationship, but because we, the countries of the EU, take very scant account of common interests, and we continue prioritizing national ones.

The resultant reality of a shared public space, with a single currency, the eurozone, with the largest and most powerful domestic market without borders in the world up to now, but without a true exterior projection of these elements, together with the lack of a common economic and fiscal governance, is weakening us all, the bigger ones and the not-so-big.
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