Latvia and Estonia left a cooperation group with Beijing
Latvia and Estonia followed in the footsteps of fellow countryman Lithuania and announced their withdrawal from a cooperation group between China and Eastern and Central European countries.
Known as the 16+1 format, it has been around since 2012 and promised to promote joint infrastructure and development projects between Beijing and a number of European states.
Lithuania left the group last year as relations with China deteriorated after Vilnius allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy there. Beijing, which considers the self-governing island part of China, retaliated by withdrawing its ambassador from Lithuania and imposing trade restrictions on the country.
Today, Latvia and Estonia announced that they were also ending their cooperation with Beijing by issuing nearly identical statements.
Riga said the decision had been made “taking into account the current foreign and trade policy priorities of Latvia.”Tallinn offered no justification, but pointed out that Estonia had not participated in any of the format’s meetings since a summit last February.
The pullout comes amid a spike in tensions over Taiwan sparked by a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month.
Both countries promised to “continue to work for constructive and pragmatic relations with China, which includes advancing EU-China relations in accordance with the rules-based international order and values such as human rights.”
“We respect and support the sovereign decision of Estonia and Latvia to no longer participate in the 16+1 initiative”, US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said the move was the result of deep concern about China’s strategic alignment with Russia.
According to Patel, strengthening ties with partners in Europe was a “pillar of this [US] management’s approach in Beijing.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis also hailed the decision from his country’s neighbors, insisting the group had been “already redundant and divisive long before Lithuania quit.” Landsbergis suggested a new format for cooperation with Beijing, which he said should be “EU27+1”.
Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia are among the countries that remain in the original framework, now reduced to 14+1.