The Chinese Silk Road Initiative, also known as One Belt, One Road (OBOR), is relevant to many EU countries’ interests. At the Federal Foreign Office on 2 February, the focus was on examining the state of play and plans for cooperation with the EU. Representatives of Germany, the EU and China analysed the subject matter alongside experts from the private sector and think tanks.
Eurasia – a continent characterised by superlatives
State Secretary Ederer began his speech by highlighting the superlative aspects of the Eurasian continent. Encompassing the largest landmass on the planet and home to 4.7 billion people, two thirds of humanity, it was now also, he said, a “massive space for cooperation”.
The EU, Ederer went on, had developed strategies to enhance “connectivity”, including the European Neighbourhood Policy and strategies for Central Asia and Russia. China’s Silk Road Initiative complemented those strategies, he suggested, as it also focused on connectivity – not only in transport but in the financial, energy and IT sectors as well.
OBOR is an important vision for the Eurasian continent – it looks from the East to the West. From our perspective, it is putting the European Neighbourhood Policy into a bigger framework, extending some of its policies and aspirations towards China and thus adding a new dimension to EU-China relations.
China invited to OSCE conference in May
In view of the large number of countries and the associated diversity of interests in Eurasia, however, Ederer cautioned that neither the EU or China alone would be able to overcome the challenges. This, he said, was why Germany intended to use its Chairmanship of the OSCE to coordinate measures to promote connectivity – one of the reasons behind China being invited to the OSCE business conference on connectivity in Berlin on 18 and 19 May.
Connectivity – a lot of potential for the Eurasian region
Connectivity has a lot of potential for the Eurasian region – as was agreed by EU representative Alain Baron, OBOR expert Wang Yiwei of Renmin University in Beijing and Patricia Schetelig from the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business and the Federation of German Industries. They also underlined the need for binding rules and internationally recognised standards, however, if cooperation was to be mutually beneficial.
This is the aim of the EU-China Connectivity Platform in particular. Established to aid cooperation on specific projects in this area, the platform was held for the first time in Brussels at the end of January.