As a “desperately needed” partner for some major endeavours of the European Union (EU), China will remain a top priority for the EU foreign policy, said policy director of Friends of Europe, a leading Brussels-based think tank.

The EU “has said several times that on many issues to do with global challenges and also in the bilateral relationship, the partnership (with China) will continue,” Shada Islam told in a recent interview.

“I would not expect any major change of direction on how the EU engages with China. I think that China will be a top priority for EU foreign policy,” she said.

Noting that the EU is now in the process of restructuring some of its domestic policy tools, the expert held that the new EU leaders also focus very much on issues related to climate change and Iran “where China is desperately needed as a partner in order to keep the nuclear deal alive.”

With 383 votes in favour, the European Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen the next president of the European Commission (EC) in a secret ballot on July 16. She is set to take office on Nov. 1 for a five-year term.

Islam urged the Chinese and EU leaders to meet at a “very high political level” soon after the new EC president takes office.

“I would suggest that the meetings could include not only the Commission president but also other EU leaders who could meet their Chinese counterparts,” she said.

“Both the EU and China want to preserve the multilateral rules-based order on trade and the WTO. Both parties have benefited a lot and have an interest in avoiding that this important institution is weakened or paralysed,” said Islam.

“We have to work together for the WTO reform of the appellate body but also try to solve some old irritants that are still creating problems,” the EU expert said.

Asked about the future development of China-EU relations, Islam said that there will be more emphasis on green and environmental issues.

“On this issue, China is doing very well and some experts think that China has a gold standard on environmental issues,” she said.

On the Belt and Road Initiative, Islam underlined that during the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing in April,

“we were quite reassured by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who responded to many of Europe’s concerns”

Over the Belt and Road, such as environmental standards, transparency, and fiscal implications.

“It was a message responding directly to the European Union and to its connectivity strategy – now, the principles are there and I hope that the EU and China will sit together on the connectivity platform and work together on the projects,” Islam added.

Islam noted that during the last EU-China summit, an ambitious list of goals was set for the two sides to work together consistently and in a step-by-step manner.

“China is much more interested and committed to European growth and sustainability than any other country,” said the expert.