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Prof. Dr. Ioanna Batsialou, Director and Owner of Ioanna Regen Polyclinic

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Peter Novak, Managing Director at Kolektor Etra

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Wolt

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Slobodan Zečević Ph.D, full professor, scientific advisor at the Institute for European Studies

Delicate Seesaw

France and Germany have contrasting views on cooperation with China, but the internal reasons for such views don’t automatically relate to their stance regarding Serbian-Chinese relations

The talks held in Paris in early May between French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping were also attended by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, but German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wasn’t present, despite having also been invited. Scholz had visited China earlier, in April, accompanied by a delegation of dozens of German business leaders. This fact testifies to the differences in the strategic approach of these two large European states. In essence, France favours raising European tariffs on Chinese technology products, such as solar panels, cars and similar products. The French opinion is that European companies are unable to develop new technologies as long as they are exposed to Chinese competition, which even enjoys subsidies from the Chinese state. Macron is also seeking equal conditions for European companies on the Chinese market, free of any form of discrimination.

France could have slightly more understanding for Serbia’s endeavours to increase its economic cooperation with China

There are major differences between the level of trade that Germany and France have with China, with one amounting to approximately 240 billion euros in 2023 and the other standing at slightly less than 100 billion. Following the loss of the Russian market, export-oriented Germans don’t want to jeopardise exports of their machinery and cars to China in any way, which is why they avoid threatening Chinese interests in Europe. The views of these two key EU member states regarding Serbia differ somewhat. The French have slightly more understanding for Serbia’s vital economic and national interests. In this sense, it could be expected for the French side to show slightly more understanding for Serbia’s endeavours to increase its economic cooperation with China. Nevertheless, both the Germans and French fear China’s possible political influence in Serbia, which would come as a consequence of the increasing economic exchange between the two countries. As for Serbian relations with Russia, the approach is different due to the fact that EU member states have imposed sanctions on the Russian Federation and are supplying Ukraine with weapons and humanitarian aid, but are also subsidising the Ukrainian budget. The EU and Russia practically find themselves in a kind of undeclared war. And it is in this context that EU member states would like Serbia to clearly distance itself from Russia, first and foremost by joining the European sanctions against this country.

Comment by Zoran Panović

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