Lithuania says EU must prepare for risk of 'de-coupling' from China

Baltic-Nordic cooperation (NB8) foreign ministers meeting in Kaunas

By Sabine Siebold

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The European Union needs to be prepared for the fallout from a potential deterioration in relations with China, such as might happen if conflict were to erupt over Taiwan, Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Friday.

Landsbergis said he was not advocating a "de-coupling" from China, but pointed to the break with Moscow over Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 as the type of risk for which the bloc needed to be prepared.

Nobody had called for a decoupling from Russia, yet "here were are", he said.

"Somebody has to devise a possibility that a de-coupling might happen - not because we wished it, like with Russia, not because we willed it but because the situation, for example in the Taiwan Strait, has been changed by force," he told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with EU counterparts in Stockholm.

Europe would have to react to such a development, "and the reaction would lead to some sort of a de-coupling", Landsbergis said.

The EU has been struggling to recalibrate its relations with a China, which is seen as much more assertive than in the past, drawing lessons from what is regarded as a failed Russia policy that strongly relied on energy imports from Moscow.

Leaders such as European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have called for a "de-risking" but not a de-coupling from China.

French President Emmanuel Macron, however, recently provoked a backlash when he called on the EU to reduce dependence on the U.S. and cautioned against being drawn into a crisis over Taiwan driven by an "American rhythm and a Chinese overreaction".

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Editing by Charlotte Van Campenhout and Alex Richardson)