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Brussels looks askance at the Beijing alliance with Eastern Europe

The Commission warns that projects only work if they involve the entire EU

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Brussels looks askance at the Beijing alliance with Eastern Europe

Brussels bears a bad memory of last summit which brought toger so-called 16 1 on European soil. It was a year ago, in Latvia. From that meeting came a project that now analyze competition authorities with magnifying glass. The result of his contacts with Beijing, Hungary — one of EU's most fractious partners — awarded two Chinese state-owned companies construction of a fast railway stretch between Budapest and Belgrade, capital of Serbia. He did so without publicity and without meeting basic rules of public bidding in Europe.

The case illustrates well threat posed to Community institutions by this partnership between China and Eastern European states, including 11 from EU. The link, which dates back to 2001, functions as a kind of backdoor by which Xi Jinping regime circumvents Brussels to gain influence and contracts in a much-needed investment territory. It is, in words of Spokesman of European Commission, a forum that brings toger "China and its friends".

On paper, everything is friendly. The EU even sends an observer to ensure that nothing that is agreed in Budapest is turned back to European institutions. But practice is more complex. "Trade, investment and infrastructure projects can only give full results within EU framework, with support of all Member States," a spokesperson for Community diplomatic service was on Monday.

Beyond detriment to external relationship between EU and an inconvenient partner like China, that framework also poses a clear challenge to internal cohesion. The 16 1 format brings toger Beijing with some of states that are most facing Brussels for issues such as refugee reception. China exploits this discontent to scale up positions and new Europe countries — one that emerged after great enlargement to East — show ir old partners that y are not unconditional. By way, Chinese regime is attracted to Balkan states, forced to comply with certain rules — in case of EU candidates — for receiving Community funds, but increasingly skeptical of lack of accession prospects coming from Brussels.

America's isolation under Donald Trump's mandate propels Europe to closer ties with China. But last bilateral summit, in which Beijing refused to sign a climate pact already closed with EU in protest at lack of progress in or chapters, revealed precariousness of that alliance. The parties are now prepared for anor potential disencounter. Europe is studying to create a mechanism that assesses in advance wher foreign investment meets community standards. To materialize, that decision would limit rain of millions of Chinese in old continent.

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