China's Hu says "convinced" EU can overcome debt crisis

31st October 2011, Comments 0 comments

China is "convinced" Europe can work through its current debt crisis, President Hu Jintao said Monday in Vienna at the start of an Austrian state visit and ahead of a G20 meeting in France later this week.

China "is convinced Europe has the wisdom and the competency to overcome the current difficulties," Hu, speaking through an interpreter, told journalists after talks with Austrian President Heinz Fischer.

"We are closely following the economic developments," he added.

Hu's two-day state visit to Austria is to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

But the trip, Hu's second to Europe in a year, also comes at a time when the region is struggling with a spiralling debt crisis and amid hopes that Beijing might invest in its debt rescue fund.

At the end of his Austrian visit, Hu will travel to the French south-east resort of Cannes to attend a G20 meeting of world leaders on November 3-4.

Last week, European leaders appealed to China to invest in the region's debt rescue fund to help it overcome the debt crisis.

Klaus Regling, the head of the bailout fund -- the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) -- also travelled to Beijing to strike a deal with the world's second-largest economy, reportedly seeking a pledge of $100 billion (71 billion euros).

However, Beijing has officially remained non-committal about its involvement and Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao played down hopes of a breakthrough at the G20 meeting, insisting that investment in the European bailout fund was not on the agenda.

In talks on Monday, Fischer and Hu discussed the upcoming G20 meeting, as well bilateral economic and cultural ties, Fischer told journalists.

He also hinted at Europe's current difficulties.

The Chinese president's visit "comes at a time of great significance for China as well as Europe and Austria, where important decisions are needed and where the partneship between China and Europe is especially important," Fischer told a joint press conference after the talks.

He added he had also brought up the question of human rights, without going any further.

A pro-Tibetan protester was jostled by pro-China demonstrators who tried to snatch her Tibetan flag during Hu's visit, witnesses said.

The Tibetan community in Austria already staged a protest Sunday evening and also Monday minor protests near Hu's hotel and elsewhere were planned, including in Salzburg, during his stay.

Tight security was in place and parts of the city centre were also to be shut down.

Hu and his wife Liu Yongqing arrived Sunday evening in the Austrian capital for the wo-day visit combining business and sight-seeing.

The official part of the visit however began Monday as Hu held talks with Fischer and the two oversaw the signing of seven bilateral agreements in areas like energy efficiency, environmental protection, hydropower and cultural exchanges.

Hu and his wife were received with full military honours at the former Imperial Palace (Hofburg), the seat of the presidency, by Fischer and his wife Margit.

Later, a state banquet and meetings with Chancellor Werner Faymann and parliament speaker Barbara Prammer were also planned.

Tuesday will be dedicated to sightseeing, with a visit to the scenic Salzkammergut region, a short lake cruise in St-Gilgen and a classical concert at the former Salzburg home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Hu's visit to Austria, only the second by a Chinese president after Jiang Zemin in 1999, follows an invitation by Fischer, who travelled to Beijing last year.

Foreign trade between the two countries amounted to 8.2 billion euros ($11.6 billion) in 2010.

China, which reportedly sent a 160-strong delegation to accompany Hu, is especially keen on Austrian know-how in areas like infrastructure, transportation and environmental technology.

Vienna has meanwhile sent a stream of ministers to Beijing this year for talks and business deals, including Chancellor Faymann and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, who also made a point of meeting political activists such as artist Ai Weiwei.

Hu flies on to Cannes from Salzburg early Wednesday.

© 2011 AFP

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