EU thanks China for support of ailing euro zone

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Visiting European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in Beijing on Monday that he appreciated China's help in maintaining the stability of the euro zone.

Since debt worries in the euro zone shook markets last year, China has repeatedly said that it remains confident in the single-currency region and pledged to buy debt issued by some of its troubled member states.

China's ambassador to the European Union has said Beijing was considering buying more debt after investing billions of euros in Portuguese and Greek bonds.

The EU's most senior official said he is in Beijing "in the spirit of cooperation, mutual trust and respect".

President Hu Jintao assured Van Rompuy that the world's second-largest economy will continue to be a trustworthy partner for Europe.

"The European Union's stable economy and prosperous development is conducive to China and the world at large," Hu said.

During their meeting, Hu also urged his EU counterpart to recognize China's market economy status while assuring to offer favorable investment conditions for EU enterprises.

Van Rompuy's four-day China visit is his first official trip outside Europe since he became the first president of the European Council last year.

Thomas Renard, a research fellow from the Royal Institute for International Relations, an independent think tank based in Brussels, said Van Rompuy's visit is a sign of the importance of the strategic partnership with China.

"The EU agreed we need a more strategic approach, identifying our objectives and interests vis--vis our partners, but also a new sort of diplomacy like the strategic dialogue and the development of personal contacts among leaders, like Herman Van Rompuy is now doing with his personal visits," he said.

He also noted that the EU delegation in China is the second biggest EU delegation in the world, multiplying fivefold in a few years to reach over 100 staff members today.

"This is again a sign of the importance of China for Brussels," he added.

But he noted that there are still major irritants to deeper ties, notably issues related to intellectual property rights on the EU's side, and market economy status on the Chinese side.

"These issues should continue to be discussed and ideally resolved to develop a true strategic partnership without such major irritants," he added.

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