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Friday, Jun 25, 2021

Hungary gags EU ministers on China

Hungary gags EU ministers on China

EU countries have shelved plans to issue a statement of moral support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, due to Hungary's veto.
"Considering that the European Union has already accepted numerous statements regarding Hong Kong, the standpoint of the EU is clear for everyone by now," a Hungarian foreign ministry spokesman told EUobserver on Friday (7 May).

"We believe that issuing a new statement on the subject is not necessary," he added.

"I don't think they [the Hungarians] had a specific problem with a certain part of the [draft] text. They thought conclusions would only escalate relations with China in an unnecessary way," an EU diplomat said.

The statement on Hong Kong was due to be issued by EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday.

The EU did criticise China's crackdown on Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters at the G7 meeting in London earlier this week.

But that led to a rebuke by Beijing for "interfering" in China's internal affairs.

Meanwhile, recent EU sanctions on China over its persecution of the Uighur minority led to Chinese counter-sanctions and the collapse of a China-EU business pact, which had been years in the making.

For its part, Hungary has a track record of vetoing or trying to water down EU criticism of China, Israel, and Russia, as well as EU statements on LGBTIQ rights.

At the same time, the country is a major beneficiary of Chinese investment, including the building of a new university in Budapest.

"Regretfully, they [Hungary] chose China over the EU [as allies]," another EU diplomat said.

Diplomats said the foreign ministers will now avoid saying anything on Hong Kong next week, while trying to talk Hungary into agreement at a later date.

"It's off the table for now, we are waiting for better times", a diplomatic contact said.

One alternative option was for the Portuguese EU presidency to have spoken out in the name of Europe - a move which does not require consensus.

But that would have put the EU's disunity on China on public show in an unwanted way, sources noted.

"Some member states were against conclusions without Hungary, as this would undermine EU unity," a diplomat told EUobserver.

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