More lockdowns after fresh outbreak
The disagreements in Europe and China’s “complex” and “multi-faceted” relationship have been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, and an upcoming inquiry could reveal more.
The European Commission (the executive branch of the European Union) Foreign Affairs and Security Policy spokesperson Virginie Battu-Henriksson spoke on ABC News from Brussels this afternoon about the inquiry.
She said the EU and its member states “have been spearheading a resolution which is looking at the entirety of the COVID-19 response”.
That comes after criticism from China’s embassy, who branded Australia’s claim it helped lead the push for an inquiry as “nothing but a joke”.
The resolution will be presented for adoption today by the World Health Assembly.
It considers “the circumstances that allowed this pandemic to develop” as well as “recognising a number of other elements”, including the importance of all countries to have “unhindered and timely” access to diagnostic kits, medicines and vaccines, Ms Battu-Henriksson said.
The actual origin of the virus won’t be a key focus.
The EU’s chief diplomat Joseph Hovell has said any investigation of the origin needs to be objective and impartial, steering clear of the “battlefield” between China and the United States.
Ms Battu-Henriksson said the EU wants to work together with China, and has in the past on issues like climate change and the Iran nuclear deal, but there were still “differences” between the Union and China.
“It’s also a systemic rival… our systems are not the same and are not necessarily compatible. There are a number of things on which we don’t see eye to eye. The pandemic has made this relationship more apparent and, in a way, has accelerated some of the aspects,” Ms Battu-Henriksson said.
She highlighted the differences in the help offered to each other during the throes of their outbreaks as one of the areas where approaches can differ.
“When China was dealing with the pandemic in the beginning, the European Union brought some help in a rather discreet way, but we did.
“In return, when Europe was at that point, facing the pandemic much more virulently than before, China did bring a lot of help and made sure that the world knew about it.”
“What’s important is that there was mutual solidarity, but you could see… the different aspects of the relationship,” she said.