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EU on Chinese spy balloons: Nothing to see (up) here

Brussels hasn’t been informed of any surveillance balloons over the bloc’s territory, transport commissioner says.


May 16, 2023

Ninety-nine spy balloons, but none over Europe.

EU countries did not flag the presence of any Chinese spy balloons to the European Commission, the EU's executive branch has told the European Parliament.

"Air surveillance and in particular military air surveillance, does not fall under EU competence and is a matter of national competence of each individual member state," Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said in a written reply to Renew Europe MEP Engin Eroglu dated Tuesday. "The EU has not been informed by any member state of the detection of a Chinese surveillance balloon over its territory," she added.

In February, the U.S. shot down what it identified as a Chinese surveillance balloon, heightening tensions between Washington and Beijing. After the incident, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a visit to China.

At the time, EU institutions acknowledged the U.S.'s right to defend its airspace, and Estonia was one of the few European countries to publicly back the Biden administration’s decision.

In the Commission's written answer, Vălean called unauthorized spy balloons "irresponsible behaviour."

"It is clear however that the deployment of surveillance balloons — or other unmanned airborne vessels — with no permission from the authorities of the country affected, can be perceived as an act of irresponsible behaviour which can increase international tensions," she wrote.


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