Saturday, May 18, 2024

China’s Xi Jinping to head for Serbia on second day of Europe visit – as it happened

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Xi begins second day of Europe visit

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, is beginning the second day of his closely-watched trip to Europe.

He will have lunch with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, before heading to Serbia.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday. Photograph: Daniel Pier/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Key events

Summary of the day

  • Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, had lunch with France’s Emmanuel Macron, as part of his ongoing visit to Europe.

  • The leaders met in the Pyrenees. Xi said he would give the ham some publicity and also praised the cheese.

  • Earlier, Xi and Macron called for a ceasefire in Gaza and for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a statement published by the Chinese government.

  • Xi also voiced his support for Palestine becoming a full member of the United Nations.

  • The Chinese leader hit out against Nato over the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia, when three people died in 1999 after a US strike accidentally hit the compound during Nato’s air campaign against Serb forces occupying Kosovo.

  • In a letter to Serbian website Politika ahead of his visit to Serbia, Xi said China should “never forget” the bombing which killed three Chinese journalists.

  • Polish services have found and dismantled bugging devices in a room where the council of ministers was scheduled to meet today.

  • Authorities searched the European parliament office of Maximilian Krah, the Alternative for Germany party’s top candidate in the European elections.

  • A group of members of the European parliament has asked for Georgia’s EU candidate status to be “suspended without any further progress in the accession process.”

Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, greeted Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, at the airport and took them to lunch high up in the Pyrenees, Reuters reported.

They watched traditional dancers perform under the snowy peaks and then ate locally grown ham, lamb, cheese and blueberry pie. Xi said he would give the ham some publicity and also praised the cheese.

Reuters reported that the French president gifted his Chinese counterpart a woollen blanket made in the Pyrenees, a Tour de France jersey and armagnac from the nearby southwestern region. The brandy is at risk of Chinese trade sanctions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed at Tarbes airport by French President Emmanuel Macron as part of his official visit to France. Photograph: Quentin TOP/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

Centre-right criticises attendance at Putin inauguration

Michael Gahler, the centre-right European People’s party spokesperson for foreign affairs, has criticised a handful of EU countries which chose to send representatives to Vladimir Putin’s inauguration.

It is extremely regrettable that France, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus and Malta chose to attend the inauguration of a war criminal in the Kremlin. Putin is an illegitimate president after a travesty of an “electoral” process, that falls short of any democratic standards

— Michael Gahler (@gahler_michael) May 7, 2024

Far-right German MEP’s office searched

Authorities today searched the European parliament office of Maximilian Krah, the Alternative for Germany party’s top candidate in the European elections, the Associated Press reported.

Krah, who has been under scrutiny after one of his assistants was arrested last month on suspicion of spying for China, has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed his assistant after he was detained.

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Speaking at the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin today, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said “it is clear that China, as one of the largest creditors, must play a greater role overall in order to reduce the debt burden of the poorest countries in the long term,” Reuters reported.

China hacked UK ministry: report

The Chinese state has hacked the British ministry of defence, Sky News reported this morning.

The cyberattack was on a payroll system with current service personnel and some veterans, it said.

China’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, said it “firmly opposes and fights all forms of cyber attacks” and “rejects the use of this issue politically to smear other countries”.

Rishi Sunak, the British prime minister, said a “malign actor” has probably compromised the UK armed forces’ payments system, Reuters reported.

“There are indications that a malign actor has compromised the armed forces payment network,” Sunak told reporters. “I do want to reassure people that the Ministry of Defence has already taken the action of removing the network offline and making sure that people affected are supported in the right way.”

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Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president and lead candidate of the centre-right European People’s party, is out campaigning in Poland today.

“It’s about building broad coalitions to tackle common challenges and make sure that the centre holds firm against the extremes. And about getting the vote out and getting young people mobilised,” she said in a meeting with Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister.

Poland is back.

Dear @donaldtusk, we can draw lessons from your electoral success.

It’s about building broad coalitions to tackle common challenges and make sure that the centre holds firm against the extremes.

And about getting the vote out and getting young people mobilised. pic.twitter.com/WCXBIOEGo9

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen_epp) May 7, 2024

MEPs call for Georgia’s candidate status to be suspended

A group of members of the European parliament has asked for Georgia’s EU candidate status to be “suspended without any further progress in the accession process.”

The move comes after a violent police crackdown on pro-western protesters in Georgia, who had raised concerns about a controversial “foreign agents” bill.

#MEPs call the behaviour of the Georgian authorities and the leading party Georgian Dream as
contrary to the obligations of an EU candidate country. Therefore MEPs request suspension of #Georgia’s candidate status without any further progress in the accession process. pic.twitter.com/9fwsq1Ur07

— Petras Austrevicius (@petras_petras) May 7, 2024

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Amy Hawkins

Xi Jinping and Emmanuel Macron called for a ceasefire in Gaza and for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a statement published by the Chinese government.

Xi also voiced his support for Palestine becoming a full member of the United Nations.

The two leaders are travelling to the Hautes-Pyrénées today after meeting in Paris with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Monday.

Bugging devices found in Polish government room

Polish services have found and dismantled bugging devices in a room where the council of ministers was scheduled to meet today, Reuters reported.

“The State Protection Service, in cooperation with the Internal Security Agency, detected and dismantled devices that could be used for eavesdropping in the room where the meeting of the Council of Ministers is to be held today in Katowice”, Jacek Dobrzyński, the special services coordinator’s spokesperson, wrote on social media.

“The services are carrying out further activities in this matter,” Dobrzyński added.

Służba Ochrony Państwa we współpracy z Agencją Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego wykryła i zdemontowała urządzenia mogące służyć do podsłuchu w sali gdzie dziś w Katowicach ma odbyć się posiedzenie Rady Ministrów. Służby prowadzą dalsze czynności w tej sprawie pic.twitter.com/OOdZPSiifU

— Jacek Dobrzyński (@JacekDobrzynski) May 7, 2024

Lisa O'Carroll

Lisa O’Carroll

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has hit out against Nato over the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia, when three people died in 1999 after a US strike accidentally hit the compound during Nato’s air campaign against Serb forces occupying Kosovo.

In a letter to Serbian website Politika ahead of his visit to Serbia on Tuesday, Xi said China should “never forget” the bombing which killed three Chinese journalists.

He said:

25 years ago, Nato flagrantly bombed the Chinese embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, killing 3 Chinese journalists, namely Shao Yunhuan, Xu Singhu and his wife Zhu Ying.

We must never forget this. The Chinese people value peace, but they will never allow a historical tragedy to repeat itself. The friendship between China and Serbia, which is soaked in the shared blood of the two nations, has become the common memory of the two nations and will encourage both sides to take big steps forward together.

In his lengthy letter, Xi pledged to “expand the comprehensive strategic partnership” with Serbia and commended president Aleksandar Vučić for “preserving national sovereignty” and “opposing the interference of any force in Serbian internal affairs”.

What is the purpose of Xi’s visit?

Jon Henley

Jon Henley

Officially, Xi’s visit to Paris is to mark 60 years since diplomatic relations were established between France and China: France was the first western country to formally recognise the People’s Republic of China, on 27 January 1964.

His visit to Belgrade coincides with the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia, when three people died after a US strike accidentally hit the compound during Nato’s air campaign against Serb forces occupying Kosovo.

In Serbia, where China is the biggest single source of inward investment, he will hope to play up Beijing’s anti-US, anti-Nato agenda – one reason why China has maintained its support for Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.

In Hungary, Xi will underline the close economic and diplomatic ties between the two countries, including in security cooperation, and discuss progress on China’s belt and road initiative, which includes a high-speed Budapest-Belgrade rail link.

Hungary, a vocal supporter of China that has blocked some EU motions criticising Beijing on human rights, has Huawei’s largest base outside China and will soon host the carmaker BYD’s first European factory.

Read the full story here.

A joint press conference by Xi Jinping and Emmanuel Macron after talks on the first day of the visit glossed over the thorny question of trade relations between their two countries.

A bottle of exclusive Louis XIII cognac was among the gifts Macron gave Xi, a nod to Beijing opening an anti-dumping investigation into French cognac.

Macron praised his counterpart for his “open attitude” towards the inquiry and added France hoped its products could continue having access to the Chinese market.

Earlier, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said she was “convinced that if the competition is fair” from China, then Europe “will have thriving durable economies”.

But she said the “imbalances” caused by state support for Chinese industry leading to cut-cost products threatened jobs in Europe, and that was “a matter of great concern”.

“Europe will not waver from making tough decisions needed to protect its economy and security,” she said.

Read the full story here, from Lisa O’Carroll and Kim Willsher

Xi begins second day of Europe visit

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, is beginning the second day of his closely-watched trip to Europe.

He will have lunch with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, before heading to Serbia.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday. Photograph: Daniel Pier/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

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