BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union officials cancelled a planned news conference with China’s Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday after the EU and China failed to agree on the format for the event.
The news conference was scheduled to take place after an EU-China summit in Brussels on Thursday and would have involved European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Wen.
China insisted that it be provided a list of the names of the journalists that would be attending and have the right to vet them, one EU official said. The EU refused.
“It was not possible to agree conditions to enable the press conference that we would have liked to take place,” Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen told reporters.
Responding to a comment by a journalist that the EU was being spineless in not pushing harder for open media access, Ahrenkilde Hansen said: “It takes two spines to tango.”
The EU said it would hold a briefing for journalists after the summit, but without Chinese officials present.
It is not the first time the EU and China have clashed over media access. At last year’s summit, no press conference was held after China backed out at the last minute saying it wasn’t happy with arrangements.
The EU official said China’s concern appeared to be that journalists from Taiwan would ask questions, or that journalists would ask Wen about Tibet and other sensitive issues.
Belgium’s foreign press association, API, said the Chinese delegation had requested limiting the press conference to 50 journalists, 25 accredited by the Chinese and 25 non-Chinese accredited by the EU.
The EU-China summit is a biannual meeting focused on bilateral ties and global issues.
Thursday’s gathering, the 15th, is expected to concentrate on European efforts to resolve the debt crisis, China’s concerns about EU trade tariffs and other barriers, Iran and Syria.
(Reporting By Ethan Bilby, Additional Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Luke Baker)