Greece has blocked the efforts of the European Union to criticize China’s human rights records by rejecting an EU statement at the United Nations. European diplomats said that this move undermined the bloc’s struggle to address China’s crackdown on dissidents and activists. The EU seeks to promote free speech and end death penalty around the world and was meant to make its statement last week at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva but did not get the necessary support from all 28 EU states. It was the first time that the EU could not deliver its statement due to the lack of an EU-wide support.
Greece said that it decided to block the statement, calling it “unconstructive criticism of China”, and said that separate EU talks with Beijing outside the UN would be a better option. “Greece’s position is that unproductive and in many cases, selective criticism against specific countries does not facilitate the promotion of human rights in these states, nor the development of their relation with the EU,” a Greek foreign ministry spokesperson said on Sunday (18 June).
The EU’s statement on human rights, which is presented three times a year, gives the bloc a way to highlight human rights abuses around the world on issues that other states and actors are reluctant to raise. The Greek decision is a blow to European standing as a defender of human rights and raises questions whether the EU’s ‘soft power’ is powerful enough. The EU has welcomed China as an ally against the new administration in Washington in the fight against climate change and trade protectionism but the growing cooperation in this area also makes it more difficult for the EU to criticize Beijing on human rights issues.