Estonia, Latvia withdrawing from China's 16+1 cooperation format

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Tallinn.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Estonia will no longer participate in the Central and Eastern Europe and China (China-CEEC) cooperation format, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday afternoon. Latvia announced its withdrawal Thursday as well.

Estonia has decided it will no longer participate in the 16+1 cooperation format between Central and Eastern European countries and China, the ministry said in a press release.

"Estonia will continue to work toward 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," the ministry said.

Estonia had participated in the China-CEEC cooperation format since 2012. Nonetheless, it had not attended any of the format's meetings following the summit last February.

"In the defense of a rules-based world order, every country has a role to play!" Frank Jüris, China relations expert and research fellow at the ICDS' Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, wrote on Twitter. "Estonia is not only showing the way in regard to Russia but also being the trailblazer in relations with China by leaving the 16+1 format of Chinese influence and co-option."

Latvia withdrawing as well

The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs likewise announced Latvia's withdrawal from the format on Thursday, noting the decision was made in view of the current priorities of Latvian foreign and trade policy.

"Latvia will continue to strive for constructive and pragmatic relations with China both bilaterally, as well as through EU-China cooperation based on mutual benefit, respect for international law, human rights and the international rules-based order," the ministry said in a press release.

Lithuania withdrew from the "17+1" China-CEEC Cooperation format in spring 2021.

Minister: It makes sense

During an interview on ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" news broadcast Thursday night, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) was asked why Estonia was withdrawing from the format right now.

"For the simple reason that it makes sense, and that I discussed it with the foreign minister of Latvia before," Reinsalu replied. "Estonia and Latvia announced their decision today. We prefer EU cooperation. And there is certainly an element here in that China has not condemned the Russian Federation's war against Ukraine in clear terms."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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