Blinken invited to meet EU foreign ministers Monday, diplomats say

edited February 16 in Other Political Debate

EU diplomats say U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been invited to a videoconference with foreign affairs ministers Monday, but Washington had no immediate comment on whether he’d attend.

If confirmed, Blinken’s participation in the Foreign Affairs Council would be his first such discussions with counterparts from the bloc’s 27 member countries, according to three EU diplomats. Two of the diplomats said China, Russia, Iran and Turkey would be on the agenda.

Neither the U.S. State Department nor the European External Action Service immediately responded to requests for comment.

U.S. President Joe Biden will address the Munich Security Conference and attend a virtual G7 leaders’ meeting on Friday. His administration has called on EU countries to work as U.S. allies on several critical international dossiers, including geostrategic and economic relations with China.

The European Commission has presented a transatlantic plan to work with Biden’s administration on issues ranging from technology to trade, after four years of strained ties under his predecessor, Donald Trump.

China is a severe challenge, however, because the U.S. has grounds to question the EU’s appetite for any tough diplomatic maneuvering against Beijing.

The EU has prioritized a trade agreement with China, and some member countries have pushed back against Biden’s call for a democratic alliance against Beijing. The EU’s two most powerful leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, have defended a more “multilateral” world order, and say they are seeking engagement with China rather than the formation of potentially dangerous new Cold War blocs.

The EU has also not followed the U.S. in imposing trade sanctions on China over human rights abuses against the Muslim minority in the western region of Xinjiang. Indeed, the ethical concerns among some European politicians about Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule are increasingly overshadowed by the fact that China overtook the U.S. as the EU’s main trade partner in 2020.

Still, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, and the Commission are expected to announce a new joint communication on multilateralism, according to a document seen by POLITICO.

“We will work urgently with partners who share our values and principles to strengthen democratic institutions, fight corruption, authoritarianism and human rights abuses around the world, and promote a common agenda based on democracy, human rights, equality and the rule of law,” it says.

“In this regard, the arrival of the new U.S. administration creates a positive momentum and the EU should seize all opportunities to rebuild the EU-U.S. relations and preserve strong links, for instance with the U.K.”

Nahal Toosi contributed reporting.

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