EU chiefs called on global leaders to increase their support to deal with the 65 million refugees in the world as the bloc’s capabilities are “close to the limits”, warned European Council President, Donald Tusk on 4 September.
“Only global efforts supporting refugees and their host communities will be able to bear fruit”, Tusk told reporters moments before the G20 summit kicked off in Hangzhou, China.
The Europeans expect that the international community would contribute with additional financial resources and resettlements to be announced during a summit on this issue to be held in the US later this month.
But the EU plea could find a lukewarm response as other partners consider that Europe still has to deliver what it promised to deal with the massive influx of people coming from its Southern Neighbourhood.
EU officials admitted that there is a “growing complaint” about how the Europeans addressed the refugee crisis. But speaking on condition of anonymity, the sources highlighted the improvements made in the European response over the last year, noting the agreement signed with Turkey, the ten hotspots set up to deal with the applications or the proposals to bolster the EU external borders.
The European call for broader support from the major economic nations came amid the numerous disputes on the issue both within the EU and with Turkey.
Despite the deal sealed with Ankara to accept refugees sent back from Greece, Ankara was unhappy with the member states’ response to the attempted coup, while the Europeans have criticised the massive purge since orchestrated by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Tusk and Juncker were expected to meet with the Turkish leader on the sidelines of the summit later on Monday.
Closer eyes on China
The European countries arrived at the summit already at odds with the host nation China, as Beijing is blamed for the closure of steel factories in Europe.
“I am determined, together with President Tusk, to defend the interests of the European steel industry and its workers” during the meeting, Juncker told reporters as he pointed out that the European steel sector has lost 10,000 jobs in recent years.
“We cannot accept this”, he added.
Juncker, the son of a steel worker, stressed that it is “crucial” that China accepts to set-up a mechanism to monitor overcapacity in the steel sector and its causes.
The two sides discussed this issue during the last EU-China summit in July and agreed on setting up a bilateral working group.
The Commission president warned that a “credible” solution to the overcapacity will be “the test case” in the executive’s assessment of China in the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations.
Not against the US
A disagreement also raised over the last few days was with Europe’s closest ally.
The European Commission’s recent decision on Apple sparked US officials’ accusations against EU authorities for targeting US companies in their tax verdicts.
“It is not a decision against the US”, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said during the same press conference.
He recalled that the first decision against unfair tax rulings was taken against European companies.
“We are applying the rules”, he underlined.
May’s trade deals
The summit held in Hangzhou was the first G20 meeting taking place after the Brexit vote.
It was the first major international test for the new British Prime Minister Theresa May, who had a full agenda to discuss the future of Britain outside the EU with global leaders, especially new trade deals.
She met with US President Barack Obama and Putin on Sunday, and scheduled meetings with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, and Chinese President Xi Jinping later on Monday.
“I don’t like the idea that member states of the EU, including those who are still members of the EU, are negotiating free trade agreements”, Juncker said.
The Commission chief pointed out that the EU institutions are the competent bodies to negotiate trade deals according to the EU treaty.
British diplomats underlined that May would just “start conversations” with global leaders.
EU diplomats said it was normal that the new British prime minister met with fellow leaders at the forum.
“It would be particularly strange if she is not meeting all these people to introduce herself”, one official told EURACTIV.
Another official said there would not be any problem as long as these talks are not early stages to negotiate trade deals. “Talking is ok, but only that”, the official commented.
May also faced another difficult test in her first global summit.
She had to explain to President Xi her decision to put on hold the construction of the French-Chinese funded Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant.
This project, in which Beijing was going to invest $24 billion, was seen by China as a gateway to Europe, and a symbol of the improved relations between the two countries.
May and Xi were expected to discuss the issue at the end of the two-day summit.
During the first session, the G20 leaders discussed how to bolster the economy as the global output is slowing down amid the decline of international trade and stagnant productivity.
“The global economy is again at a critical junction”, China’s Xi said in the opening words of the summit.
The Chinese leader called on the leaders to “build a new momentum” not only with short term responses, including monetary and fiscal stimulus, but also with long term measures, including those to support innovation and the digital transformation of the industry.
Xi urged the leaders to keep up with the changing times and to turn the G20’s crisis response stance into a long term governance system.
“We have to make it an action team instead of a talk show”, the Chinese president commented.