Signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in order to set up a ‘Connectivity Platform’ (CP), the EU and China are committed to the synergy of the OBOR initiative and the Investment Plan for Europe, otherwise known as the Junker Plan. The CP is a major economic priority for the European Commission, as is the potential participation of China in the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). As a forum for discussions on transport-related issues, the CP offers an opportunity to share information on our respective plans and policy programmes, with the aim of creating an environment conducive to transnational infrastructure investment, transport services improvement and market access along the EU-China corridors.
There are a number of major economic corridors linking Europe and China to other regions and countries. The economic corridors provide a number of functions that allow countries such as Mongolia to be linked to Russia and China, or Myanmar to China and neighboring countries. Both are significant in their own way and should be embraced. The China-Pakistan corridor for example provides the transportation of crude oil along the corridor linking China to Myanmar, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
China's OBOR initiative effectively integrates the maritime strategies of the EU. Take Greece for example, which could become China's important gateway to Europe and a broker in the cooperation among China, Europe and the Middle East. During the 3rd meeting among leaders from these regions, China and the EU reached a consensus to create a new channel for Asian-European sea-and-rail intermodal transportation built out of the Hungarian Railways and Greece Piraeus port, proving Europe maintains a pivotal role in the construction of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative.
Brussels and Beijing share common ground and mutual interests in the maintenance of maritime security, meaning maritime cooperation should become a new highlight in China-EU cooperation. With maritime development strategies between China and Europe, both will make joint efforts to maintain the security of freedom of navigation. For instance, maritime shipping and logistics centres need to be established as seen in the anti-piracy programmes off the coast of Somalia. Once conditions develop, a Maritime Cooperation Organisation should be established to maintain maritime order and building a new version of Asia-Africa-Europe cooperation. Promoting bilateral and multilateral coordination, along with effective control of differences, would prove a viable way for Sino-EU cooperation in the Maritime Silk Road. Besides, Arctic cooperation between China and Europe is also future-oriented, since the trade line connecting China and Europe through the Arctic has been successfully tested.
For Europe to fully embrace the OBOR initiative, China and the EU should join hands to ensure the OBOR initiative faces no threats.
This article is part of Friends of Europe’s Policy Paper ‘EU-China: New Directions, New Priorities‘ which brings together the views of Friends of Europe’s large network of scholars, policymakers and business representatives on the future of EU-China relations. These articles will provide immediate input for the EU-China Summit on 12-13 July 2016, but their value and relevance goes well beyond this year. They set the tone for EU-China relations over the next decade.
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