by Rahul Venkit, Sun Wen
BRUSSELS, March 29 (Xinhua) -- The comprehensive strategic partnership between the European Union (EU) and China can play an important role in shaping the global order, president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy has said.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua prior to the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Brussels -- the first ever by a Chinese president to EU institutions -- Van Rompuy underlined that neither the EU nor China had the potential to solve global problems alone.
"International financial turbulences, climate change or modern information technologies do not respect national borders," Van Rompuy said. However, much could be achieved "while working constructively together for the global good," he added.
Since November 2009, Van Rompuy has served as the first full-time president of the European Council -- the EU institution comprising the heads of its member states that oversees the general political direction and priorities of the Union.
The former Belgian prime minister and economist at the National Bank of Belgium was reelected for a second term as European Council president running until November 30 this year.
A FULL AGENDA
Xi's iconic visit to the capital of the European Union, from March 31 to April 1, will have "a very full agenda, commensurate with our global responsibilities," Van Rompuy said.
The Chinese president's trip will include meetings with Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz. Topics ranging from sustainable development, G20, climate change to trade and investment relations are expected to be on the table.
"We will review the progress made in the negotiations on the bilateral investment agreement, which aim to ensure investment protection and market access for investors on both sides," Van Rompuy stated.
For the last nine years, the EU has been China's biggest economic partner. Official figures show bilateral trade in goods between China and the EU grew four-fold in a decade, reaching 434 billion euros (597 billion U.S. dollars) in 2012.
"The EU is the world's largest trading block and the biggest economy. We are thus in a unique position to promote an open global economy and an open trade and investment environment, together with China," Van Rompuy said.
During the talks, practical cooperation on security and defence issues will also be examined, such as joint naval exercises on counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden, he said.
A QUARTER OF ALL HUMANITY
It has been been 11 years since China and the EU established a comprehensive strategic partnership. Their most recent bilateral plan was the China-EU 2020 strategic agenda for cooperation released at the 16th China-EU Summit last November in Beijing.
Asked how Europe envisioned taking forward the partnership, Van Rompuy said he wanted to "move forward with the implementation of this ambitious agenda and take EU-China relations to a new level over the next decade."
Van Rompuy highlighted that the EU was keen to broaden its strategic partnership with China beyond economic relations, citing examples such as China's constructive role in the EU+3 nuclear negotiations with Iran, as well as China's important contribution to the EU's naval operation against piracy off the coast of Somalia.
"These achievements would have not been possible without a high degree of mutual understanding and trust," he said.
With the EU and China representing over a quarter of the world's population, Van Rompuy believes the most effective way to further increase mutual understanding is to facilitate people-to-people contacts.
"We continue to promote exchanges in the field of culture, education, youth and develop sustainable tourism. Therefore, we also attach a great importance to reinforcing our cooperation on migration and mobility," he said.
According to the EU, six million people are believed to travel every year between the EU and China, three times more than in 2003.