(TibetanReview.net, May22’21) – A decade-old initiative called “17+1”, a grouping of Central and Eastern European countries created by China, has lost a member, with Lithuania dropping out of it and also urging others to follow suit, according to politico.eu Oct 21.
“There is no such thing as 17+1 anymore, as for practical purposes Lithuania is out,” the report quoted Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis as saying in an email. Most of the 17 members on the European side are from the ex-Soviet bloc.
“From our perspective, it is high time for the EU to move from a dividing 16+1 format to a more uniting and therefore much more efficient 27+1,” Landsbergis has said.
“The EU is strongest when all 27 member states act together along with EU institutions.”
The report cited a spokesman for the Chinese Mission to the EU as saying said China was “not aware” of Lithuania’s move, adding: “China-CEEC [Central and Eastern European countries] cooperation mechanism is a cross-regional cooperation mechanism jointly initiated by China and Central and Eastern European countries. It meets the desire of all parties to seek development together.”
The report called Lithuania’s move the latest indication of an increasingly shaky relationship between China and the European Union.
It noted that on May 20, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to freeze the legislative process for ratifying the EU’s investment pact with China, unless Beijing lifts sanctions against EU lawmakers that were imposed after the 27 EU countries slapped Xinjiang officials with sanctions over mass internment of the Uyghur minorities.
The report noted that signs of diminishing interest in China’s grand strategy in Eastern Europe emerged earlier this year, when some of the EU members in the group snubbed Beijing’s invitation for their top leaders to join a summit with President Xi Jinping.
The “17+1” is now only “11+1”, made up of Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, along with China.
China has been looking to add to this number by enticing Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia by showering them with free coronavirus vaccines and masks, the report noted.