Mon. May 29th, 2023

Check against delivery!

Ms President,

I am sorry that I have been talking for too long and this [parliamentary] session has been too long and I think that I will have to be replaced by my colleague [Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva] Johansson – thank you for helping me -, because I have to attend other important activities.

But let me open the session about China. You know that on the 22nd of March, the European Union took the important decision of making further use of the European Union Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime to address serious human rights violations around the world.

The package of measures adopted included the listing of four individuals and one entity from China who are directly responsible for human rights violations. This is “a première”; this is something that never happened before. Not only persons [were listed], but entities [also]. I think that this was consistent with our long-standing concerns about the situation in Xinjiang that we have been stressing continuously in this House and the European Union has repeatedly raised in meetings with Chinese counterparts everywhere, also at the United Nations.

But then came China’s retaliatory measures, which are of a different character. And as I mentioned  immediately after the Foreign Affairs Council of the 22nd of March, they targeted 10 European individuals and 4 entities for participating in European Union decision making processes or for having expressed their opinion and promoted human rights and fundamental freedoms, legitimately, through this kind of institution, through democratic institutions and organisations. Maybe for Chinese it is difficult to understand what it means for parliamentarians to be free to express their opinions, even if they are strongly criticising anything – even with me.

So once again, I wish to express my full solidarity with the Members of this Parliament, with the Human Rights Subcommittee, and with all other individuals and entities affected by the Chinese retaliatory measures, namely, the Political and Security Committee of the Council [of the European Union], members of the national parliaments, as well as Swedish and German academics, and think tanks in Germany and Denmark. It is a wide sanction on the thinkers, to think and to express freely your thinking. It is not by doing, it is by just thinking and expressing your thoughts.

We have firmly expressed our dissent to our Chinese counterparts, both in Brussels and in European Union capitals. And we will continue to do so for as long as these measures are in place. We will do this in the framework of the European Union’s strategic approach to China, because with China we also have to engage. We have to continue engaging with China to advance on issues of common interest, while, at the same time, standing firm on our values.

Although there are growing challenges in our relations, I think that this multi-faceted approach remains valid. And, by the way, I am happy to see that our American friends are using exactly the same way of mentioning how to deal with China. And we will keep on relating with China in this way, which is our own way.

Because China is a key economic and political player with whom continued engagement is needed. Without China, global challenges cannot be addressed effectively: from tackling climate change and the pandemic, to the coup in Myanmar, the Iran nuclear deal or the global balance of power.

So, yes, we have to engage with China, keeping in mind that, on the other hand, there is systemic rivalry – because our systems are different – and, sometimes, we go into difficult relations according to what has happened in the last month.

I think it is going to be an important debate in the Parliament about the relations with China. The European Union Council will take care of this relationship. We remain vigilant, trying to do, at the same time, this engagement – which we cannot avoid -, but being firm on the defence of our values.

Thank you.

Link to the video:

Sitting of 28-04-2021 | Plenary | European Parliament (


Closing remarks

Delivered by Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell

Thank you Madame President, dear Members [of the European Parliament],

I am answering and concluding this [debate] on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President [Josep] Borrell.

I think that the debate today testifies your continued and strong interest and engagement on EU – China policy and on human rights.

The measures announced by China against MEPs, against the Subcommittee for Human Rights, against the Political and Security Committee and other European individuals and entities are deplorable.

One thing is clear: we will not be deterred from standing up for human rights in China, or anywhere else, and we will keep on calling on China to meet its responsibilities in this regard.

Several of you referred to the work on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI). The Agreement is one part of our approach to China. It covers many asks that European companies have been raising for decades and it is a step in the right direction to ensure fair access and fair rules of engagement in the Chinese market.

That being said, our economic interests will not prevent the European Union from continuing to stand up for human rights. We will continue maintaining a multi-faceted approach to China.

If we want to advance in all areas of interest, including human rights, we need to remain open for dialogue and engagement with China. And we need to avoid being drawn into an escalatory spiral. But the European Union must remain firm in the defence of its values and of its citizens, in a spirit of unity and solidarity.

I hope that I can count on your support to succeed in this approach. Our unity makes our strength.

Thank you very much.

Link to the video:

Sitting of 28-04-2021 | Plenary | European Parliament (

Source EEAS: China: Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP debate on the Chinese countersanctions on EU entities and MEPs and MPs

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