The 9th EU-China summit on Saturday decided to launch talks on a new partnership agreement between China and the European Union (EU), which European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner hailed on Sunday as a "real breakthrough" for boosting bilateral ties.
"The summit is excellent, the atmosphere is very good," said Ferrero-Waldner in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Sunday.
At the summit on Saturday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, whose country holds the EU presidency, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, vowed to deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU, and decided to launch the talks on the new partnership agreement.
"It's a very important breakthrough yesterday," she stressed.
Ferrero-Waldner said the current legal framework for the EU-China relations -- the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation signed in 1985 -- "is a trade agreement," and it fails to reflect the reality of the current EU-China ties.
The EU-China relations are "much broader" now, said Waldner, adding that the bilateral ties comprise many dialogues like politics, trade, energy, education and climate change.
"Now even we have a joint project of setting up an EU-China law school," she said.
"Therefore, the new partnership agreement would indeed show all the breadth of our relations with China," the commissioner said.
Ferrero-Waldner vowed to work "diligently" to get the agreement finalized as soon as possible.
As for the EU-China relations in general, Ferrero-Waldner said the EU has always attached importance to its relations with China.
"We want a strategic partnership with China, we want work effectively with China, because we both are giants in the international arena," she said.
She noted that Saturday's summit discussed some major international issues such as Iran's nuclear issue, the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East and and the reform of the United Nations.
"China is a very valuable partner to us," she said.
On bilateral trade and the rise of China, the commissioner saidannual trade between China and the EU has surpassed US$200 billion, noting that the European customers "are benefiting from Chinese goods of low prices."
"The rise of China is absolutely a great opportunity to Europe," she said.
On the issue of lifting an EU arms ban against China, Ferrero-Waldner said "we are working towards lifting."
Premier Wen on Saturday called on the European side to make a correct political resolution independently for lifting the arms ban against China and granting China full market economy status.
Ferrero-Waldner said recognizing China's market economy status is a "technical issue," and the key to the recognition is whether China meets "relevant criteria" or not.
Barroso on Saturday listed four sets of criteria -- state influence, accounting, bankruptcy law and reform of the financial sector.
(Xinhua News Agency September 11, 2006)