EU-China connectivity agenda

Employment and Social Affairs

The possible cooling down of Transatlantic relations, rising from the election of Donald Trump as US president, highlight once more the importance for EU to look toward East. China, in this new vision, is one of the key partner in several fields of cooperation, also as regard the huge Initiative kowkn as “One Belt One Road” (Obor). This project, which imagines an overland and maritime “New Silk Road” linking Asia, Africa and Europe, has been championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Over the past year, Beijing has relied on globalization also in contrast to Trump’s apparent protectionism; and in today’s world, the pace of growth of economic inter-connectedness between the EU and China has been remarkable. Through Obor project this cooperation would be advanced even further, boosting investments in the infrastructure sector and connecting two continents and its people. In this regard, the EU-China Connectivity Platform should create synergies between EU policies and China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, as well as between respective sources of funding in the field of transport and other kinds of infrastructure.
The importance of the relations beetween the EU and China has been highlighted also in April 2017 by the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini official visit in Beijing. Here she delivered a speech “Europe and Asia – building a Cooperative Global Order”, in front of the students at Tsinghua University, stressing the need for global powers like the European Union and China to engage constructively in world affair and “to look for win-win solutions” with the aim of building a rules-based global order.
Looking toward this direction, the ‘EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation’ – jointly signed by the EU and China in 2013 – envisage a key base for useful cooperation; it covers the areas of peace and security, prosperity, sustainable development, and people-to-people exchanges. Even bilateral relations are now conducted at the highest level through the annual EU-China Summit; and as resulted during last meetings, China expects to enhance cooperation with the EU in areas of education, science and technology, culture, media, youth, women and tourism.
It could be said that “people-to-people exchanges” are an essential vector of peace, while contributing also to economic development. Together the EU and China represent over a quarter of the world’s population: people-to-people engagement should support opportunities for EU sectors such as higher education, creative and cultural industries, and tourism. And this would also contribute to fostering inter-cultural dialogue and promoting cultural diversity and civil society participation. The EU-China 2020 Strategic Cooperation, based on the principle of equality and friendship, it is crucial that China and EU Member States establish cultural centres, boosting long-term and stable cooperation between major cultural institutions. Other crucial steps are to expand students and scholars exchange, and support mutual exchange visits of young people; work together on the EU-China Youth Policy Dialogue and the EU-China Symposia on Youth Work Development; continue to  implement the EU-China Youth Partnership for Friendship Programme supported by China and the EU Youth actions under Erasmus+.
We can say that the partnership beetween EU and China is well represented by the recente improvement of relations beetween Greece and China. Despite being a threat for the EU they are also an opportunity for european countries. In recent years, China has always had high confidence about economic recovery and development in Greece, and considers Athens as a long-term and reliable strategic partner. In this sense, strengthening cooperation between China and Greece will not only serve the interests of our two countries, but will also prove beneficial for the development of Europe and the East Mediterranean. The development of the Port of Piraeus has attracted world-wide attention and become a paradigm of mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Europe. And this in the case also of the increased presence of China in the Balkans, namely in Serbia. Beijing is becoming a major lender for infrastructure projects in Serbia, setting up a Bank of China branch in Belgrade, as part of a wider strategy to penetrate Balkan and European markets. Trade volume between China and countries along the “Balkan Silk Road” reached 3.3 billion euros in 2015-16, but Europe still remains the most important foreign trade partner of Balkan countries, according to a new report commissioned by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, published on 13th of september. Thus if on the one hand this is a risk for the EU to be left apart, on the other side it could be seen as a complementary path to ensure development through improving connectivity and exchanges. Overall, Chinese investments in the Balkans are welcomed by policy makers in the region, based on a pragmatic considerations. In any case, regional countries should remain committed to European Union accession and Nato membership.

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