by Federico Grandesso
BRUSSELS, July 22 (Xinhua) -- The new leadership of the European Union (EU) is expected to reinforce Europe's role as an independent actor, according to Germany-born EU expert Gerhard Stahl.
And this is a good basis to develop EU-China relations as the bloc will have to decide on its own priorities and this will enable good cooperation with different partners, the former EU senior official told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
Wth a slim majority, Germany's Ursula von der Leyen was elected last Tuesday to be the next president of the European Commission.
"I think that von der Leyen stands for a common EU defence policy and she was already engaged on that when she was defence minister in Germany. This factor is also very important for the EU-China relations in the European Union, because if Brussels develops its own defence capacity, it can also be politically independent," he said.
"If China wants an independent partner, which is not depending on the U.S. for its own security, the reinforcement of the European defence capacity is an essential element for having an independent partner," Stahl noted.
In this sense, said the expert who is also an visiting professor teaching at the College of Europe in Bruges, it is also a good sign for EU-China relations that Europe is becoming independent and can make its own choices. "We saw, in the Iran question, which is very difficult, that luckily China and Europe can try to keep the treaty alive."
For Stahl, the new president of the European Commission has guaranteed further processes of European integration, and this also means European independence.
"China is interested in having a multilateral, open, international system and economy. I think it is good to have a European partner that is trying to develop its own policies and positions," said the expert who is also professor at the Peking University HSBC Business School.
"I hope that with the new leadership, which reinforces the ambitions of the euro to develop its own economic and political strength, that this can be a pillar for preserving the multilateral system," he noted.
In addition, he said: "This will also reduce the possibility of entering a geopolitical national conflict concerning supremacy. This will create a counterbalance to the U.S. which is going for bilateral policies based on national power politics. I think that the EU stands for systems that are negotiated in common interests and are rule-based and this is very much in line with the Chinese interests of having an open multilateral system."
For Stahl, closer cooperation between Europe and China will be essential for the future of the international system.
"This scheme has to change because of the fact that more and more people from developing countries are becoming part of the modern life and economy. I think it will be very helpful if the new EU leadership will enforce a closer cooperation with China," he told Xinhua.
The expert views Beijing as a partner and a competitor in the EU's global strategy.
"This is a very good base to develop cooperation, because we need to work together on a number of bilateral issues. Concerning fundamental questions such as climate change, you can't answer the global challenges affecting the planet without a good partnership between Beijing and Brussels. Then you also have companies competing with each other in the markets, and we are competitors there as well," Stahl explained.
There is big difference between Europe and the United States, he said. The EU doesn't have a geopolitical rivalry with China, and thinking about the 'enemy' is not in the basic construction of the Union. "It is important to underline that the EU is not a military power with a specific agenda. The EU does not think in terms of conflict. It thinks about cooperating," he noted.
On Huawei, Stahl said the Chinese telecom company is a symbol of how China is an international actor and not just nationally oriented. Huawei has become the market leader in the telecommunications infrastructure and it is a Chinese success story in the globalized economy, showing that China's opening-up policy has been successful.