EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to launch a global infrastructure plan linking Europe to the world, its latest step after deals with India and Japan and a similar pledge by the G7 countries. Suspicious of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative to link Europe to Asia via infrastructure in a bid for greater influence, the EU set out a formal path for an ambitious “connectivity” plan from 2022. “We see China using economic and financial means to increase its political influence everywhere in the world. It’s useless moaning about this, we must offer alternatives,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said at a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels. “It is important that the EU ... coordinates them very closely with the US.”
The EU has already signed partnerships with Japan and India to coordinate transport, energy and digital projects linking Europe and Asia. Both Tokyo and Delhi are worried about Chinese largesse that officials say makes poorer countries beholdened to Beijing because they are forced to take on large debts. Through development banks, first-loss guarantees to private companies and by offering Western government know-how, the G7, also want to provide more transparency in infrastructure partnerships.
The EU strategy makes no mention of China. Luxembourg foreign minister cautioned about making China an adversary, noting that German carmakers sold more vehicles in China than in Germany.