The high representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, assured this Thursday that the services he directs rejected any “pressure” from China to downgrade his latest report on disinformation about the coronavirus, which targets China or Russia.
“After doing an investigation and having spoken with those responsible for it, I can guarantee that the document that was published is not one watered down with respect to any previous one, and that Chinese pressure did not influence its drafting,” Borrell told the commission. of Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, to which he was called to explain the incident with the aforementioned report.
The study, the third in a series on disinformation and coronaviruses prepared by a specific working group reporting to the European External Action Service (EEAS) and published on April 24, caused controversy among some media that claimed to have seen a harder earlier version with the Chinese authorities.
Instead, Borrell fully rejected that possibility today and made it clear that the EEAS produces two types of documents on disinformation: one for internal diplomatic consumption and the other for publication to the general public on the euvsdisinfo.eu website.
“We have not bowed to anyone,” said Borrell, who explained that, as a diplomatic service, the EEAS maintains “constant contact with third parties,” which “implies listening to what they think, but not bowing to anyone.”
Asked by a MEP about criticism from the Chinese embassy in Paris to the French government in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, Borrell acknowledged that this is “an event that is not in the document that was made public.”
“I have asked about it and the answer I got from my services is that they decided not to put it there because they had to pay special attention that in any public evaluation the only main references to cases were disinformation and evidence based on open sources,” he replied.
In the case of the incident with the Chinese embassy, the services considered that it could be “a slightly different category, basically referring to pressure activities on a diplomatic mission”, so they decided “not to put it in the public report to avoid inaccuracies” , said.
“But this was decided in the team without any interference or pressure from outside or inside, and you can see that we are not hiding by unmasking clear cases of disinformation from China, which are in the report,” added the head of community diplomacy.
He also noted that the case of the Chinese embassy in France “was widely reported in the media, so we were not trying to hide anything.”
On the document allegedly leaked to the press, Borrell said it is “clear and evident that China expressed its concerns” when it learned of its existence, but that the EEAS “did not accept any pressure to create a publication that was biased due to pressure from nobody”.
“If you see the publication, tell me if it is something produced to satisfy the Chinese authorities,” he said of the report, which points to evidence “of a coordinated push by Chinese official sources to deflect any blame for the outbreak of the pandemic.”
Borrell concluded that “it is not acceptable for the EEAS to be harmed by this event or to weaken its ability to expose disinformation.”