EU-China summit marred by row over press coverage

The EU executive Wednesday scrapped efforts to organise a press conference at the close of an EU-China summit Thursday, as is traditional at such events, after failing to agree with Chinese authorities.

"It was not possible to agree conditions to enable the press conference that we would have liked to take place," European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said.

European Union officials had been working to organise a media conference at the close of talks between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, EU president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.

But China wanted the right to vet the journalists, said a European diplomat who asked not to be namd.

"The Chinese wanted to select the journalists, on the grounds of security, which was unacceptable," the diplomat said.

The Brussels-based International Press Association said that due to space constraints, only 50 journalists would have been able to attend, with 25 accredited by the Chinese authorities and 25 by EU authorities.

"Any agreement to sidestep media freedom such as by the EU agreeing not to invite journalists representing a certain country and allowing the visiting country to have a veto over journalists from their or any other country is not acceptable," API said in a letter

A row over press coverage also marred the last EU-China summit held in Brussels, in October 2010.

A closing press conference was cancelled at the last minute, officially due to a late schedule.

But diplomatic sources later said the Chinese side refused to attend to avoid facing questions from independent Chinese media on Tibet or other sensitive issues.

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