October 15, 2017

OBOR's geopolitical significance for the EU

Excerpt from report

OBOR's geostrategic significance for the EU

Improving infrastructure along the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt has the potential to contribute to economic development and regional stability in Eurasia from which both China and the EU could benefit in terms of new markets and energy security. OBOR thus opens opportunities for the EU to pursue its geostrategic ambitions in Central Asia by deepening the EU-China strategic partnership through cooperation in
non-traditional security fields, possibly paving the way to EU-Russia reconciliation. The maritime trajectory of OBOR will sooner or later require the EU to take a more outspoken position on maritime disputes in the South China Sea in favour of an international rules-based order.

If OBOR is considered to be 'the most ambitious infrastructure-based security initiative in the world today', it may be argued that it could be advantageous for the EU to consider how its existing policy tools and strategies, such as the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the EU Maritime Security Strategy, could be linked with OBOR and how this strategic alignment could feed into the EU's new Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy which came out on 29 June 2016.

OBOR's geopolitical significance for the EU

OBOR-induced investment and trade relations between China and countries in hEurasia, Africa and the Middle East are likely to result in China's growing political and economic leverage on these countries. What impact this will have on the EU's long-term geopolitical, economic and geostrategic interests will also depend on whether the EU
responds to OBOR with one voice and coordinated policies.

Until recently, China's infrastructure investment in Europe targeted individual EU countries such as Greece and the 16+1 group rather than the EU as a block. This has led to concerns about China's investment strategy pursuing 'divide and rule tactics' capitalising on the lack of a common EU strategy – as evidenced by the past lack of consultation at EU level as regards the AIIB accession of a total of 14 EU Member States – and EU Member States' propensity to privilege their bilateral ties with China. However, China's strong interest in investing in EU connectivity initiatives and in seeking
synergies between them and OBOR, as voiced at the 2015 EU-China summit, could be a turning point. With the launch of the EU-China Connectivity Platform, the EU has created a common framework for European cooperation with China on OBOR with a view to defining cooperation strategies, plans and policies and to clarifying the rules and principles governing joint projects including governance and rule of law issues. As OBOR is a 'moving concept', it provides the EU with an opportunity to take part in shaping the
agenda jointly with China and deepen EU-China relations.

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