EU Aims for ‘Strategic Autonomy’ After CCP Virus Pandemic

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
September 8, 2020Updated: September 8, 2020

The European Union is planning to build “strategic autonomy” in essential products in the wake of the CCP virus pandemic, European Council President Charles Michel said on Tuesday.

Speaking at the Brussels Economic Forum, Michel said “strategic independence” was the EU’s “common project for this century.”

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European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on June 30, 2019. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

The EU’s budget-and-recovery plan, which was finalized in July after intensive negotiations among its 27 member states, was “a major step” toward this “vital objective,” said Michel, who leads the European Council, which comprises the heads of state of the EU member countries.

The recovery plan is a massive stimulus package for European economies, which have been hit hard by the pandemic caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

“This bold European response was fundamental to protect our citizens and safeguard our businesses,” said Michel, who previously served as prime minister of Belgium between 2014 and 2019.

“Our industrial strategy will foster greater independence, and make sure we have access to all the necessary resources to ensure the prosperity of our citizens. This includes, for instance, greater autonomy in producing processors, vital medicines, and other essential products.”

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Medical workers put on protective gear before working at the unit for COVID-19-infected patients at the Erasme Hospital in Brussels on March 27, 2020. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images)

EU countries have become worried about supply chains to the European economy after the CCP virus pandemic exposed Europe’s over-reliance on China for medical equipment, raw materials for drugs, and components for the car industry.

Michael Roth, Germany’s minister of state for Europe, warned European countries last month of Beijing’s tendency to use economic dependencies as leverage in power politics.

“The coronavirus crisis has been a wake-up call,” Roth wrote in a newspaper commentary, as it has been a “painful reminder to us of how dependent Europe has become in certain areas.”

Germany Michael Roth
Germany’s Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth gives a press statement at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin on June 16, 2020. (Markus Schreiber /Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

In the early stages of the crisis, the Chinese regime sent medical supplies to many countries in an effort to repair its image and cast itself as a leader in the fight against the pandemic, rather than the party responsible for its spread.

In March, Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, warned Europeans to beware of China’s “struggle for influence through spinning and the ‘politics of generosity.’”

Germany, the EU’s main engine for growth, has started readjusting its strategy toward China.

On Sept. 2, the German cabinet adopted its new “policy guidelines on the Indo-Pacific region,” which advocate diversifying Germany’s relations in the region, reducing its dependence on Beijing.

Reinhard Werner, Cathy He, and Reuters contributed to this report.