China’s provision of masks and Chinese interests in Europe

China’s provision of masks and Chinese interests in Europe

According to an article in Le Monde dated 6 July 2020, the Chinese authorities have favoured certain local authorities in France with which it is ‘friendly’ for the distribution of masks as part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The local authorities of the 13th district of Paris, and those of Nancy and Strasbourg, are reported to be among those benefiting from these ‘selective distributions’, in respect of which the French intelligence services (the General Directorate of Internal Security, the Central Territorial Intelligence Service and the General Directorate of External Security) are said to have obtained intelligence.

Moreover, the representative of the 7th congressional district of Tennessee at the American House of Representatives, Mark Green, accused China of making the provision of masks conditional upon allowing the Chinese operator Huawei to deploy 5G in Europe.

On 31 August 2020, French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Dominique Bilde of the Identity and Democracy Political Group sent a parliamentary question to the European Commission.

MEP Bilde asked the Commission “does it intend to verify the veracity of these claims with the relevant Chinese authorities?”

On 30 November 2020, the High Representative/Vice-President Borrell officially responded to this parliamentary question on behalf of the European Commission.

The High Representative/Vice-President Borrell clearly stated that “the EU cannot monitor and verify all claims that are made in the media”.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the EU has worked closely with the Member States, notably on sharing information, assessing needs, and ensuring a coherent EU-wide response” added the High Representative/Vice-President Borrell.

In ending, he reported that “in February 2020, over 56 tonnes of supplies (protective clothing, disinfectant and medical masks) were delivered to China by the EU side via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Under the same mechanism, a donation by China of 15 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) was transported to Europe in April 2020”.

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