Skip to main content

Is the EU corridor an alternative to China's Belt and Road Inititiative?

SABENA SIDDIQUI

Will the European Union and China clash over China's plans in Eurasia?

In recent years, there has been renewed global interest in the ‘rising continent’ of Asia which suffers from a massive infrastructure deficit even though it represents the world’s largest marketwith the highest middle-class spending pattern.

China has taken the lead in capitalising on these massive trade opportunities through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which envisions an interlinked Eurasia through a synchronised train, road and maritime routes. Initially, the European Union (EU) expressed interest in this attractive project but it later opted to stay away from the widely attended Belt and Road Forum held in Beijing in 2017.  

Even the European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker’s Juncker Commission had been researching similar ventures to boost economic growth in the EU.  The EU then came forward in October 2018 with a holistic, multi-dimensional Global Strategy of its own, visualising a vibrant and ‘connected Asia’. Benefiting all stake-holders, the mega-project would not only bring the backward region on par with the developed world it would also create fresh opportunities for European companies like the Trans-European transport network.

However, to implement the plan the EU would have to make a yearly investment of 1.3 trillion euros, with more funding required from the private sector. Considering that the BRI is already underway and has offered similar solutions, the EU could have simply pitched in and achieved its economic objectives.

Most of all, this can benefit Germany and Eastern Europe the most as Frankfurt exports goods worth nearly $600 billion US dollars to China every year (at the rate of 1 million USD per minute) while there are sizable Chinese investments in eastern European countries. 

Both China and the EU had successfully upgraded economic cooperation with each other over the past few years, with the EU joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) while China became part of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

With no significant disputes between China and the EU a sustainable, long-term geo-economic alliance could have been achieved under the BRI umbrella, however, Europe has preferred to work independently.

The EU foreign affairs representative Federica Mogherini said, “Our approach is the European Union’s way to establish stronger networks and strengthen partnerships for sustainable connectivity.”

Termed 'The European Way to Connectivity', from the beginning, the ‘EU Corridor’ project made it apparent that Brussels has proposed a competitive alternative to China’s BRI. Considering the overlapping goals of both geo-economic projects in mostly the same region, it seems like several factors may have prevented Brussels from becoming an active participant in the BRI.

For starters, elevated Chinese economic engagement in the Central and Eastern European countries has become an unsettling factor. Actively engaged in the production and transport network in this developing region, China’s leverage was bound to grow in Europe and some eastern European countries, especially those with some history of communism.

Searching for strategies to contain this new influence, France and Germany finally suggested the adoption of a common investment screening policy to streamline China’s spending. However, this move immediately started protests from eastern European states in the bloc.

Second, the current trade war frictions between the US and China have hit European companies working in China. The eurozone was emerging as “the big loser” in this economic tussle as it failed to define a single policy for dealing with both China and the US.

In the midst of all this, pitching in its lot with the BRI would most certainly bring Europe into the Chinese zone of influence, and it is more likely that Brussels does not want to give that impression.

Another factor could have been the legal standing of all issues pertaining to the Belt and Road Initiative. Special BRI courts were to operate in Xian, Shenzhen and Beijing along with three international commercial courts under the auspices of the Supreme People’s Court to settle all disputes and carry out arbitration under the Chinese legal system. This may be because most of the BRI projects are implemented by Chinese organisations, but as far as the EU was concerned, it would prefer to follow international legal norms.

Finally, there always were some minor grey areas in this relationship, the EU had often expressed concern over human rights protection and fundamental rights issues in China. Questioning China’s foreign investment practices, at times the EU had conveyed that it would appreciate more reciprocity and transparency.

Mulling over a bilateral investment treaty to reduce trade barriers, the EU has kept China’s ‘market economy’ status on hold. Significantly, the EU’s disapproval of BRI became obvious when 27 out of 28 EU ambassadors to China became signatories of a negative documentabout the BRI last year.

Meanwhile, the Chinese stance has been that “the leaders of China and the EU have reached consensus on seeking synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and the EU’s connectivity plan.”

Predictably, trade can be the decisive factor here in determining the future of both these mega-projects as Beijing remains Brussels’s biggest trade partner while the EU is China’s second-largest trade partner after the US. Considering this co-dependence, it is unlikely that either side would play a negative role.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to opinion.editorial@trtworld.com

AUTHOR

Sabena Siddiqui

@sabena_siddiqi

Sabena Siddiqui is af oreign Affairs Journalist and Geopolitical Analyst with special focus on the Belt and Road Initiative, CPEC and South Asia.



https://www.trtworld.com/opinion/is-the-eu-corridor-an-alternative-to-china-s-belt-and-road-inititiative-24745

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed. Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area” For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number” Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell yo

CPEC Jobs in Pakistan, salary details

JOBS...نوکریاں چائنہ کمپنی میں Please help the deserving persons... Salary: Salary package in China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in these 300,000 jobs shall be on daily wages. The details of the daily wages are as follows; Welder: Rs. 1,700 daily Heavy Duty Driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Mason: Rs. 1,500 daily Helper: Rs. 850 daily Electrician: Rs. 1,700 daily Surveyor: Rs. 2,500 daily Security Guard: Rs. 1,600 daily Bulldozer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Concrete mixer machine operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Roller operator: Rs. 2,000 daily Steel fixer: Rs. 2,200 daily Iron Shuttering fixer: Rs. 1,800 daily Account clerk: Rs. 2,200 daily Carpenter: Rs. 1,700 daily Light duty driver: Rs. 1,700 daily Labour: Rs. 900 daily Para Engine mechanic: Rs. 1,700 daily Pipe fitter: Rs. 1,700 daily Storekeeper: Rs. 1,700 daily Office boy: Rs. 1,200 daily Excavator operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Shovel operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Computer operator: Rs. 2,200 daily Security Supervisor: Rs.

A ‘European Silk Road’

publication_icon Philipp Heimberger ,  Mario Holzner and Artem Kochnev wiiw Research Report No. 430, August 2018  43 pages including 10 Tables and 17 Figures FREE DOWNLOAD The German version can be found  here . In this study we argue for a ‘Big Push’ in infrastructure investments in greater Europe. We propose the building of a European Silk Road, which connects the industrial centres in the west with the populous, but less developed regions in the east of the continent and thereby is meant to generate more growth and employment in the short term as well as in the medium and long term. After its completion, the European Silk Road would extend overland around 11,000 kilometres on a northern route from Lisbon to Uralsk on the Russian-Kazakh border and on a southern route from Milan to Volgograd and Baku. Central parts are the route from Lyon to Moscow in the north and from Milan to Constanţa in the south. The southern route would link Central Europe with the Black Sea area and