EU FMs to only 'verbally' support Lithuania over China policy at Friday's meeting; Vilnius may 'backfire domestically with govt instability'
Published: Jan 14, 2022 06:21 PM
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis file photo:VCG

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis file photo:VCG

Despite a whirlwind of interviews given by the Lithuanian foreign minister to render a "China pressure" atmosphere in the bloc, Friday's EU foreign ministers' meeting will only come up with "verbal" support for Lithuania, rather than any tangible outcomes to appease the "little brother," as being kidnapped by the Baltic country will only exacerbate the bloc's internal disputes and harm its own interests, Chinese analysts said. 

EU foreign ministers are set to meet on Friday in an informal meeting to discuss the relationship between the EU and China. It is the first such meeting to be held after the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union began in January. 

Days before the meeting, which is believed to be "critical" for Lithuania to gain the EU's support over its wrong China policy, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis preached "China pressure" in several interviews. 

In an interview with the Financial Times on Thursday, Landsbergis said Europe needs to stand up to China's "illegal" pressure on Lithuania. 

Landsbergis said that he was ready to ask for European solidarity in Lithuania's dispute with China. "I am ready to inform my colleagues once again about where we are, what we are facing and ask for European solidarity. Because this is what is needed now," the Baltic Times quoted him as saying. 

Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Friday that Landsbergis' recent remarks reflected that the current Lithuanian government was desperate to shift the focus from its domestic crisis to hyping the "China threat" facing growing opposition voices from its public and politicians over the country's wrong move to allow the opening of a "Taiwan representative office."

While Landsbergis touts "China pressure" to other countries, its domestic residents have shown a drastically different attitude. A survey published on Wednesday showed that only 13 percent of Lithuanian residents support the government's China policy, the local media reported. Politicians like Vilija Blinkeviciute, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party (LSDP), this week even urged Landsbergis to step down.

On Thursday, Lithuanian government's Freedom Defenders' Day event outside parliament building was met with booing from anti-vaxx protesters who demanded the resignation of the current government, local media reported.Landsbergis deliberately fogged the essence of Vilnius' difficult situation, which is the Baltic country's wrong China policy, but tried to kidnap the EU with its selfish gains, Cui said, noting he also attempted to use the rhetoric to deviate the direction of the EU's strategic independence promoted by France, president country of the EU council. 

But France knows well that the EU's strategic independence cannot be reached through confrontation with China, as visiting Diplomatic Advisor to the President of France Emmanuel Bonne said on Thursday that his country is willing to enhance high-level exchanges and strategic communication with China and will play a constructive role in pushing for win-win cooperation between the EU and China during a meeting with Vice President Wang Qishan. 

Bonne said France advocates the Olympic spirit and opposes the politicization of sports, and French athletes are looking forward to participating in the Beijing Olympic Winter Games. 

Even Western media does not believe the EU foreign ministers' meeting will end up with practical support to Lithuania. The Politico on Friday anticipated that EU foreign ministers are expected to only reach "gushing declarations" to support "tiny Lithuania," and Brussels isn't going to risk a "full-blown tariff war" with China over Lithuania. 

Although France and the EU may voice support to appease Lithuania, to show the bloc's internal solidarity, they will not let Lithuania affect general relations between China and the EU, experts stressed. 

When Lithuania tried hard to politicize what it suffered economically and took it to EU, the European Commission did not take any actions but said it may explore official complaints with Lithuania to the WTO, which indicates that EU treats the matter as a technical issue rather than a political one, Cui said. 

Sun Keqin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times that some EU members are even annoyed by Lithuania being a "small country trying to fiddle with major powers," and will never offer long-term help for Lithuania to confront with China. 

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian government's anti-China policy will backfire domestically as deepening opposition voices from politicians may result in instability of the current government, Cui said. 

On whether current government members will be impeached, Chinese observers said there is no sign of that yet, but they would face the possibility of impeachment if the government "makes more mistakes."

No matter whether government members will be removed, the Baltic country will eventually correct its mistake over the "Taiwan office," after realizing that support from the US or Taiwan island can hardly meet its needs, Sun said.