On Friday 3 February 2006, the Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing met with a European Union delegation to discuss EU-China relations.

The EU delegation comprised the foreign ministers of Austria and Finland, the EU General Secretary Solana and the EU Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The Austrian government currently holds the Presidency of the EU, while Finland takes over the rotating Presidency in July 2006.

The meeting in Vienna, Austria coincided with the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency to discuss Iran?s nuclear, and China?s position on the Iranian issue, as a member of the UN Security Council, reportedly dominated discussions during the EU-China meeting.

However, Chinese Foreign Minister Li once again raised the issue of the EU arms embargo on China, which was implemented as a response to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 and EU demands for progress on human rights in China. The Chinese government views the embargo as ‘political discrimination’ and ‘a relic of the Cold War’ and has made the embargo a core part of its discussions with the EU in recent years.

The Austrian Foreign Minister Plassnik stated that although the EU, in principle, favoured lifting the embargo, no consensus had been reached by member states as to when. The greatest stumbling block remained China’s human rights record and a failure to comply with all the requirements for lifting the embargo.

Foreign Minister Li also sought full market economy status for China within the EU, which was rebuffed by the EU. Li responded that the decision was ‘ridiculous’ and amounted to ‘discrimination’.

An EU press release prior to the meeting stated that the “EU will raise developments in the area of human rights and will encourage the early ratification by China of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)”, though at this point the content of that discussion is not known.

ICT Europe delivered a list of recommendations on Tibet to the EU delegates and foreign ministry officials prior to the meeting.