- Composition of the Study Group
- Administrator / Assistant in charge: Sveto TRAJKOVSKI / Elisabete DIAS
The main objective of this opinion is to deliver, eight years after its official launch, an EESC assessment of the state of play of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a soft-power tool through which China has assumed a new strategic geopolitical position on the world chessboard. In this context, the EESC needs to investigate what impact the BRI can have on the EU's policies such as twin transition, open strategic autonomy, access to critical technologies and critical raw materials, security and defence, TEN-T network, foreign direct investments, EU screening, etc.
BRI has had a direct and indirect impact both on the EU as a whole and on its individual Member States. Through it, China has managed to activate bilateral relations with some countries bordering the EU, as well as with a number of EU Member States, undermining some EU policies (including but not limited to logistics and transport), which is detrimental to the safety, social, environmental and economic-financial standards, as well as to the respect for human rights. Taking into account the investments made in some European ports, the logistics and transport investment programmes that are affecting the countries bordering the EU, the EESC aims to explore and highlight the position of civil society. Another aspect to investigate is the war in Ukraine, which raises serious geopolitical concerns both globally and locally, which in turn raises serious issues about the role of BRI in the relevant region, both within and outside the EU.
Furthermore, this opinion is intended to promote a debate both within the EESC and at interinstitutional level between the EESC, the European Commission, European Parliament and the Council on issues of particular importance that can have geopolitical implications on the EU as a whole and on individual Member States, such as the consequences for EU relations with neighbouring countries, with the countries of the Mediterranean region, and with African countries.
This opinion aims to highlight a shared position of civil society organizations represented in the EESC on the effects of the BRI, and to represent a cornerstone on which the Commission, Council and Parliament can develop their respective positions. Since the BRI is a dynamic process, it will be necessary to carefully monitor its economic, social and environmental effects for the European Union.
Organised civil society has a clear interest in discussing an issue with such great impact on European citizens, consumers, workers and businesses. For this reason, it is rather appropriate to express a clear position on this issue, which can then be reflected in EU policies.
- welcomes the EU's decision to promote the principle of the open strategic autonomy of the Union, which seeks to invest in the dissemination of democratic values, high standards, good governance and transparency through successful infrastructure projects. To this end, the EESC welcomes the launch of the Global Gateway initiative at the end of 2021;
- argues that the Global Gateway will strengthen economic and political ties with the EU's partner countries, ensuring respect for its democratic and social principles while enabling the EU to compete effectively on a global level in the provision of infrastructure;
- stresses how important it is that the Global Gateway investment programmes must be based on impact assessments. These assessments should not only take into account aspects of strategic geopolitical relevance, but also ensure democratic participation in development initiatives in partner countries and ensure the economic, social and environmental sustainability of projects;
- regrets the lack of real involvement of local European stakeholders, such as civil society organisations and social partners, in the overall process of development, monitoring, evaluating and implementing projects under the BRI in the EU. In this regard, the EESC would like to play a more active role in the key stages of the decision-making process for development projects associated with the BRI and the Global Gateway;
- stresses the need for BRI and Global Gateway projects to respect a number of principles and objectives, including compliance with EU values and the submission of detailed impact assessments to ensure their suitability.