MANILA, Philippines - A former president and the longest serving member of the European Parliament called China's actions in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea "unacceptable," and said no power should be allowed to dominate in the region.
Hans-Gert Pöttering, chairman of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and member of the European Parliament representing the Christian Democratic Union (CDU Germany), said maritime disputes in the South China Sea “should be solved on the basis of international law.”
“I think as Europeans we have to be very aware of the situation in the South China Sea. No power shall be dominant in this region and the relations between the concerned countries have to be peaceful,” Pöttering told The STAR.
“Unilateral actions are not acceptable,” he added.
“All countries have dignity and the Europeans have learned from their own history. In Europe, the law has the power and it is not the power that dictates the law. And this means that we have to respect the smaller countries too,” he stressed.
Pöttering, who has been a member of the European Parliament since its adoption in 1979, was its president from 2007 to 2009.
He expressed alarm over China’s unilateral measures, including its new fisheries law and its establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea covering areas disputed with Japan. Countries committed to peace and good relations with other nations should not resort to unilateral actions, he said.
The ADIZ covers an area spanning about 1,000 kilometers from north to south.
China requires foreign aircraft passing through the ADIZ to report their flight plans and make proper identification or risk facing “defensive emergency measures” from China’s armed forces.
The United States, Japan and the Philippines have voiced protest over China’s establishment of ADIZ, saying it was a threat to civil aviation and to regional stability in general.
A new Chinese fisheries law issued by the Hainan Provincial People’s Congress took effect last month, requiring all foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval from Chinese authorities before transiting into Hainan’s administrative zone in the South China Sea to conduct fishing or surveying activities.
China claims virtually the entire West Philippine Sea through the so-called nine-dash line, which covers more than 100 islets, atolls and reefs.
China’s territorial claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution in March 2013 voicing support for the Philippines’ arbitration initiative, under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in clarifying the Philippines’ maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea.
Pöttering, a close advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former President Christian Wulff, said it is important that the European Parliament and the European Union clearly express their position on the issue.