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The Role of EU Member States in EU-China Security Relations

Francesco Saverio MONTESANO

The EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of 2003 included a call for greater cooperation in peace and security between the two partners. Security was also a key pillar of the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation. In terms of policy objectives, the Agenda sought to increase cooperation in a variety of fields including counterterrorism, counter piracy, arms export control and cybersecurity. Moreover, China's EU policy paper of 2014 also called for greater security cooperation between both actors. However, concrete cooperation between the two parties in the area of security (particularly where a military dimension is present) has been limited. This is due to several factors. On the one hand, practical concerns, such as the EU embargo on arms sales to China, tension between the United States and NATO members wishing to increase cooperation with China, and the lack of transparency in the Chinese arms trade all play a role. On the other hand, and arguably most importantly, normative divergences concerning key pillars of security policy, such as sovereignty, statehood and human rights, generate fundamentally different approaches to issues such as humanitarian intervention and responsibility to protect. Consequently, it is not surprising that China and the EU are often at odds in their positions on key international security issues, such as the South China Sea and Syria.Given this picture, sustainable security cooperation between the two actors could realistically develop only if at least moderate normative compatibility is achieved. While some studies have illustrated how China's stance has indeed been evolving, less attention has been paid to the EU side of the equation. This is in part due to the rather blurry -and often controversial- border between EU and national security-related competences. This paper will try to address this gap by focusing on the role played by the Member States as catalysts or hindrances to sounder EU-China security relations. How do the individual MS' security paradigms affect the overall EU stance? How deep are intra-EU normative cleavages when it comes to security policy? How have they impacted on EU-China security cooperation?

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