EU governments approve plans to launch global investment strategy to counter Beijing’s influence

European Union foreign ministers have approved plans to develop a rival global investment strategy to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in order to counter Beijing’s growing influence in countries across the world.

By Euronews  •  Updated: 12/07/2021 – 22:18

The bloc’s economic, foreign and development policy, as well as security interests will be advanced, while also promoting European values.

Beijing, which launched the initiative in 2013, has already started investing in nearly 70 different countries and international organisations, including in EU member state Greece at the port of Piraeus and also in Italy, demonstrating the Mediterranean Sea’s importance for transport and infrastructure projects.

But today, EU foreign ministers agreed to give a new impetus to their newly announced strategy called “Globally Connected Europe”, pushing for investments in visible projects to link Europe to the world from 2022.

“It has a broader purpose to put connectivity at the center of our external policy,” the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said during a press conference on Monday. “We started to do this two years ago with our agreement with Japan.

“But it seems that today is much more important for us to look at the connectivity problems with the broader Middle East and looking forward to Central Asia and China, but not with the same approach and the same purposes that China has with the Belt and Road initiative.”

Better connectivity means diversification of value chains and a reduction of strategic dependencies for the bloc and its partners.

EU candidate country Montenegro, for example, is struggling to pay a $1 billion Chinese loan for a highway plan.

Researcher at the Bruegel think-tank, Alicia García-Herrero, stressed to Euronews that European countries need to be wary of becoming too dependent on Beijing, in terms of infrastructure, but also in terms of trade, to avoid bottlenecks in case of a supply chain shock.

“Importing, for example, 90% of a critical product through a port that belongs to China and suddenly trying for whatever reason to argue against whatever with China, then you have two potential bottlenecks: your imports and your ports,” García-Herrero said.

Last month, G7 leaders also adopted the “Build Back Better World” plan to rival Beijing’s influence.

The EU isn’t opposed to so-called “connectivity partnerships” with other countries, as long as they are with like-minded ones.