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Macron and von der Leyen’s Reality Check in China

Macron and von der Leyen’s Reality Check in China

This week, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen head to China for high-level meetings. During their time in China, the two leaders will be addressing the Ukraine conflict, commercial ties between the European Union and China, and possible British re-entry into the EU’s Horizon research programme.

Nato foreign ministers will be gathering today to discuss various forms of support to provide to Ukraine and the possible costs associated with this. It is essential for China to comprehend how the Ukraine war is transforming Europe. From the meetings, the two leaders will be looking to open channels with China as France stresses the priority it assigns to business relations with China.

France and the EU can pressure China to abandon its position paper on the Ukraine conflict, which doesn’t call for Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine, and to make contact with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The leaders’ conversations may also include discussing the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, that has been stalled for quite a while. It’s possible that business leaders from about 50 companies will join Macron as he visits Beijing and Guangzhou.

The UK is also looking to make progress in research collaboration with the EU and its Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan is in Brussels today to initiate talks. The two sides differ on the UK’s entry fee to re-join the Horizon research programme, with the budget set at €95.5bn. The UK wants to get a discounted rate due to the two-year ban on its involvement in the programme. With expectations to finalize a deal by June, Donelan knows that the matter is something to bargain over.

The complexity of this trip is evidence of the hard truths and realism that Macron and von der Leyen have to accept in order to put the EU-China relations back on track.

Von der Leyen is a German politician from the Christian Democratic Union, who served as the Minister of Defence from 2013 to 2019, before being appointed President of the European Commission. She pushes for the EU to be independent and is constantly working towards decentralizing the EU and giving back power to the EU Member States.

Macron is the 25th President of France, who was elected in May 2017. He has worked towards changing the course of Europe and restoring it to the path of growth and success. As the youngest President of France, Macron has been determined to reform the youthful energy of his country and his work in international relations with China is an extension of that same energy.