Tag: European Union

How the pandemic has redefined diplomacy world wide
Geopolitics

How the pandemic has redefined diplomacy world wide

Personal interactions have a way with relationship building in the diplomatic circuits. The walks, the tea sessions, the dining and meeting with spouses- there are many examples which help build bonds of trusts amongst the leaders of great nations.

But with the pandemic having restricted much of social meetings, virtual meetings are ruling the roost. But is virtual diplomacy really working out its way into the hearts of the leaders?

Indeed, there are consequences of social distancing and then virtual diplomacy. You have to depend on the earlier effect you might have left on the other person. It is difficult to give the same kind of impression and feeling again. According to Sven Jurgenson, Estonia’s ambassador to the U.N., “Face-to-face interactions are a key aspect of building diplomatic relations.

Right now, diplomacy seems to have been put on halt due to the pandemic and social distancing protocols which have to be adhered to. We will have to learn to adapt to this.”

Social distancing requirements and restrictions on movement have been seen to have effect on decision making processes at many levels. While virtual meetings are doing their work, the effectiveness maybe put to question.

For example, the functioning of the 15-member Security Council and the 193-member General Assembly, the two most important bodies in the multilateral system isn’t as effective as they would want it to be. The council has indeed, made a number of important procedural decisions, such as the prolongation of mandates for peacekeeping missions.

But what has been affected is strategic actions like inability to remotely cast and verify votes. Currently, the remote voting process takes up to three days. Xavier Sticker, the French ambassador to the U.N. in Vienna for example feels that sensitive issues are difficult to be addressed without in person interactions. “Diplomats have to be careful about discussing sensitive topics over phone or in a videoconference,” he explains.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) again found it difficult to get Iran on the same page, virtually. They are intending to be able to start atleast some partial personal meetings by June end.

The pandemic seemed to have hit the diplomatic channels in EU the worst. As a bloc, they are accustomed to many meetings. Many ministers admitted to a particular news agency that first few weeks were paralyzing. Videoconferences only started becoming functional when there was no other option to be seen. But that also, among European ministers was seen to be not that efficient as face-to-face meetings in Brussels are most popular to get things done. During in-person meetings, representatives of the bloc’s member states sit around a table and are able to get up and make progress on other issues while statements are made that do not concern them directly.

There is a lot of simultaneous and informal work which is also done over the personal meetings. That has been stopped and many EU ministers feel less efficient on virtual set ups.

Indeed multilateral negotiations have become slow and painful for many nations. But many leaders and governments are also forced to accept that evolution is the only way to move ahead in such times of restrictions and safe keeping.

China’s Hong Kong law escalates tensions for EU in the world order
Asia Pacific Focus

China’s Hong Kong law escalates tensions for EU in the world order

China’s handling of Hong Kong has raised grave concerns with the European Union governments, implying that it will affect the EU-China relations. Furthermore, the EU is facing potential complications with the United States over Washington’s unprecedented response to the tensions between China and Hong Kong. This dilemma has emerged for the EU amid inevitable efforts of post-pandemic recovery and continuing tussle with the UK on a major foreign policy issue since Brexit.

During a meeting with foreign ministers of the 27 nations of the bloc on Friday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called for the need for dialogue over Hong Kong and to discuss with Chinese authorities about the repercussions of the move on some issues of mutual interest. EU’s cautious statement came after strong condemnation from the United States, Britain, Australia, and Canada against Chinese legislation against Hong Kong’s freedom.

Notably, EU’s relations with China have been facing certain strains amid the Coronavirus pandemic and ongoing Sino-US cold war which can pose adverse consequences in the world order.

Responding to China’s move in Hong Kong, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US will no longer treat Hong Kong as autonomous for trade and economic purposes, which will have drastic impacts on the economy of the city. Earlier, US President Trump also announced to impose sanctions on China over its Hong Kong approach. On the other hand, British foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that the UK will extend visa rights for as many as 300,000 Hong Kong British national (overseas) passport holders if China continues with the repressive laws. Meanwhile, Retaliating to international criticism of its national security law on Hong Kong, China on Friday threatened countermeasures against the UK and the US.

Significantly, the EU has been divided on China amid the ongoing circumstances. While European governments have been ensuring measures to tighten their defence against Chinese investment in Europe, certain leaders of the bloc raising questions against China’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. Even though world governments have been critical of China’s security law, the European Union has maintained a diplomatic stand. At the same time, the bloc is making efforts to steer clear from the US-China spat.

China’s National People’s Congress on May 28 approved a resolution to impose controversial national security laws on Hong Kong which would ban any activities that would endanger China’s national security, secession, and subversion of state power in the city. Critics have been calling China’s move as a big blow to Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom that has been enshrined in the territory’s laws since 1997.

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