Former EU envoy predicts stronger Sino-European relations

By Fu Jing in Brussels (China Daily)
Updated: 2014-03-13 08:35


A former European Union ambassador to China said he believes Beijing is serious about improving relations with Brussels and that Sino-EU ties will improve with President Xi Jinping's visit to Europe this month.

Klaus Ebermann said the next decade will see both more competition and cooperation between China and the EU, which is quite normal and reasonable. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have just got to do it," Ebermann said in an interview with China Daily during the two sessions in Beijing.

Xi is scheduled to visit the European Union headquarters in Brussels, the first time a Chinese president has done so. He will also make state visits to Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Ebermann - Brussels' top envoy in Beijing from 2001 to 2005 - said Xi's visit will provide another big boost to bilateral relations following their summit in Beijing in November, the 16th since 1998. The 17th summit is scheduled for later this year in Brussels.

"We have many reasons to paint a rosy picture of our relations" because of "a new political willingness", said Ebermann, now a visiting professor at the British University in Egypt.

"We (in the EU) are notorious, in the positive sense, for trading and technology and knowledge, which is exactly what China needs. So it's a fruitful relationship. Most of it is great. I won't ask for more."

Regarding China's domestic economic reform, Ebermann thinks it is moving in the right direction, although the heavy hand of the State is still a hindrance in far too many issues. "If you make this simpler, if you withdraw State supervision from a number of key areas in the economy, that should benefit China's economic performance," he said.

Ebermann said China's reform under its leadership is positive, but he has seen little on foreign affairs or international relations. "I would like to see a bit more development on international relations, China's role in global affairs, and how China see its role in the region - not just its relations with big powers like the US, but beyond," he said.

Ebermann said that to create a transparent spirit of trust, both sides need patience, openness and different styles of dialogue - those in which one doesn't merely read from prepared statements, but in which both sides actually discuss problems.

"We have to find common interests and creative new ways of communication, not only at the government level but with local officials and local leadership joining in the dialogue. That is my dream."

When Ebermann was the EU's top diplomat in Beijing, both sides were in a honeymoon period of their relationship, with the EU supporting Beijing's entrance into the World Trade Organization. But the EU is having coming to terms with China's current market-economy status, he said.

However, Ebermann added, mutual trust has definitely improved because the two sides know each other better now.

Ebermann said that while he was posted in Beijing, "the EU stood very much for trade and economic relations, and less for political issues".

In his eyes, the negotiations for China's joining the WTO were difficult, but the process helped both sides get to know each other better, he said.

He continued that there was a relationship of mutual trust, and on that basis, there was close cooperation between China and Europe in trade-related and WTO issues, science and technology.

"I am talking about broad trust. For me, strategic partnership requires broad trust and respect, not just in matters such as trade, but beyond that," he said.

Li Xiaofei contributed to the story.