EU unveils Asia infrastructure plan, denies rivalry with China

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (SEPTEMBER 19, 2018) (EBS) – The European Union on Wednesday (September 19) proposed a foreign policy plan to improve transport, energy and digital infrastructure links with Asia but denied seeking to counter China’s ambitions that have raised suspicion in Western capitals.

The plan, which would be backed by additional funds from the EU’s common budget from 2021, private sector loans and development banks, amounts to a strategic response to China’s largesse in much of central Asia and south-eastern Europe, where Beijing has invested billions of dollars.

The 13-page strategy outlined by the EU executive did not specify how much the bloc would spend, but the Commission is relying on a proposed 60 billion euro ($70 billion) fund to act as insurance for investors if projects fail.

That fund could raise over 300 billion euros between 2021 and 2027 by attracting investors into projects with a guarantee to cover costs in case of the project’s failure.

Although not all money would be spent in Asia, the Commission’s strategy, once agreed by EU governments, would make spending on infrastructure links with Asia official EU policy. EU foreign ministers are expected to approve this at a meeting on Oct. 15, three days before a summit between European and Asian leaders in Brussels.

Since 2013, China has launched construction projects across more than 60 countries, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, seeking a network of land and sea links with Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa but EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the Commission’s proposal was not linked to any Chinese policies.

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