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Lithuania pulls out of China's '17+1′ bloc in Eastern Europe

World

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Lithuania has dropped out of China's "17+1" group and urged other EU countries to follow suit, the Baltic state's foreign minister told Politico.

"There is no such thing as 17+1 anymore, as for practical purposes Lithuania is out," Gabrielius Landsbergis said in an email, referring to Beijing's decade-old initiative to engage Central and Eastern European countries.

The Lithuanian foreign minister called on other EU countries to also abandon the initiative.

"From our perspective, it is high time for the EU to move from a dividing 16+1 format to a more uniting and therefore much more efficient 27+1," Landsbergis said. "The EU is strongest when all 27 member states act together along with EU institutions." Lithuania's move is the latest indication of an increasingly shaky relationship between China and the European Union.

On Thursday, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to freeze the legislative process for ratifying the EU's investment pact with China, unless Beijing lifts sanctions against EU lawmakers that were imposed after the 27 EU countries slapped Xinjiang officials with sanctions over mass internment of the Uyghur minorities. China put the blame on the EU for the worsening relations.

The EU should focus "less on emotional outbursts and more on rational thinking," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said on Friday.

"It should make the right decision in its own interest." Following Lithuania's departure, 11 other EU countries remain in the grouping: Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

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