The virtual 17+1 summit between China and 17 Eastern and Central European countries that will take place on February 9 will see Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets represent Estonia. Politico notes that Estonia and Lithuania are expressing their disinclination through only sending foreign ministers to the high-level summit.
"We have informed the representative of the People's Republic of China that Estonia will be represented by the foreign minister," Angelika Lebedev, media adviser for the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told ERR. She added that the summit will be held virtually on Tuesday, February 9.
"We can say today that Lithuania will not be represented on the level of the president or prime minister," a press officer for Lithuania's EU representation told Politico.
The publication describes the decision by Estonia and Lithuania as an insult to Beijing that is seeking greater influence in Europe through the cooperation format.
The 17+1 initiative is a diplomatic cooperation format covering former Soviet socialist states, including the Baltics and Visegrad, Bulgaria, Romania and the Balkans. Greece recently joined the format.
EurActiv wrote on January 20 that China will try to hold the 17+1 meeting in February to discuss combating the coronavirus pandemic and offer Central and Eastern European countries its vaccine.
The suitability of Estonia's participation in the format has also been called into question by now Ambassador to Finland Sven Sakkov (former head of the International Center for Defense and Security) and MEP Urmas Paet (Reform).
"Estonia and other likeminded states should leave the 17+1 format with China in the name of a more united EU China policy," Paet said, adding that the format undermines a common China policy on the EU level and that member states should not forget human rights violations against the Uighurs, in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
Editor: Marcus Turovski