Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sarkozy to blame for EU-China summit delay

By Li Xiaokun (China Daily), 2008-11-28

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's reckless plan to meet with the Dalai Lama has forced Beijing to take the unprecedented decision of delaying a summit with European leaders, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

"In China we have a saying: 'Whoever causes the problem should solve the problem.' It is not China that caused the present situation," the ministry's spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at a news briefing.

On Wednesday, Beijing decided to delay the 11th Sino-EU Summit scheduled for Monday in France, which holds the rotating EU presidency. Paris announced earlier that Sarkozy would meet with the Dalai Lama at a Dec 6 ceremony in Poland to honor former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.

Premier Wen Jiabao was due to attend the annual meeting to discuss ways to tackle the financial crisis.

"Tibet issues concern China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, they concern China's core interests, and the Chinese government and people resolutely oppose ... foreign leaders engaging in any form of contact with the Dalai Lama," Qin said.
Beijing is still willing to promote relations with France and the EU, and whether the meeting will be rescheduled depends on the reaction from the French side, Qin said.

In Paris, a French government spokesman confirmed on Thursday that Sarkozy would not change his plan to meet with the Dalai Lama.

The 27-nation EU issued a statement to express its regret and said that it would continue to promote the strategic partnership with Beijing, especially under the global economic situation that "calls for very close cooperation between Europe and China".

The EU Chamber of Commerce in China said in a statement that the delay of the summit would "make the two sides miss a good chance" of communicating especially in the current global financial situation.

"We hope this will not trigger a hostile act or acts of trade protection which will lead to the escalation of economic nationalism," the statement said.

The top priority at present is "consultation based on mutual respect and an open mind" between top levels of the two sides, it said.

Yu Sui, a scholar in Sino-European relations, said this is not the first time Sarkozy has used the "Tibet card" for his own political interests and hence affect the hard-won prosperous cooperation between Beijing and Paris".

Sarkozy said ahead of the Beijing Olympics that his attendance at the opening ceremony of the Games was conditional on the progress of talks between the central government and envoys of the Dalai Lama.

He did appear on Aug 8, and later avoided meeting with the Dalai Lama.

"Now Sarkozy has changed his mind again. In the long-term, I don't think he will benefit. China will never concede on the Tibet issue."

Yang Chengxu, former head of the China Institute of International Studies, said it is highly impossible for the summit to resume this year, given the attitude of Paris and the limited time.

The situation will probably change when Czech Republic takes the rotating EU presidency from France in January, he said.