Estonia and Latvia have left a collaboration group with Beijing
Estonia and Latvia have announced that they will be withdrawing from the cooperation group with China, eastern and central Europe countries.
This group is known by the 16+1 format and has been in existence since 2012. They promised to encourage joint infrastructure development and projects between Beijing, China and other European states.
The group was disbanded by Lithuania last year after China’s relations worsened. Vilnius had allowed Taiwan to establish a defacto embassy on the territory of Lithuania. Beijing considers the autonomous island part of China so it reacted by withdrawing its ambassador and applying trade restrictions to the country.
Estonia and Latvia now announce that they will end cooperation with Beijing. They issue almost identically worded statements.
Riga stated that the decision had been made “in view of the current priorities of Latvian foreign and trade policy.” Tallinn didn’t provide any reasoning at all, but stressed that Estonia hadn’t attended any of the meetings of the format since a summit last February.
This withdrawal is occurring amid tensions about Taiwan that were heightened by Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the US House earlier in this month.
Both nations have made promises to “continue to work towards constructive and pragmatic relations with China, which includes advancing EU-China relations in line with the rules-based international order and values such as human rights.”
“We respect and support Estonia and Latvia’s sovereign decision to no longer participate in the 16+1 initiative,” US Department of State spokesman Vedant Patel said, adding that the move was a result of deep concern about China’s strategic alignment with Russia.
Patel stated that strengthening European ties was an important goal. “pillar of this [US] administration’s approach”Beijing
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis also welcomed the decision by his country’s neighbors, insisting that the group had been “already redundant and divisive long before Lithuania quit.”Landsbergis proposed a new model of cooperation with Beijing. “EU27+1”.
Bulgaria, Croatia and the Czech Republic are still included in the original structure, now reduced to 14+1.