BERLIN/BEIJING (Own report) – At this week’s Asia-Europe Meeting in Brussels, the EU will introduce a new “connectivity strategy” to counter China’s “New Silk Road.” As outlined by the EU’s head of foreign policy in September, the strategy is aimed at improving transportation infrastructure as well as digital and energy networks linking Asia and Europe. Beijing is also active in these domains in connection with its Silk Road initiative. Recently, Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched an initial thrust in this project. At the time, Minister of State Niels Annen (SPD) declared in Uzbekistan that social standards and human rights are “priorities” for Brussels. “This is what makes our offer different from China’s Belt and Road initiative.” For years, Germany had supported – even with military assistance – the Uzbek regime that was applying torture. Washington has also launched a new infrastructure initiative in Asia, to which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the USA is committed to “honest accords” and would “never seek dominance over the Indo-Pacific.”
The “European Way”
The new “connectivity strategy” outlined by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, Federica Mogherini, on September 19, is explicitly aimed at “improving links connecting Europe and Asia.” This should be accomplished in 3 ways. On the one hand, Brussels seeks to accelerate development of transportation infrastructure, to enhance Asian trade. Based on its value, currently 70 percent of European-Asian trade is carried out by sea, 25 percent by air, and five percent overland, according to the EU Commission, each with enormous growth potential. Digital as well as energy networks are also to be enhanced, in addition to an expansion of scholarship programs and promotion of twin-city arrangements. The rather ambiguously described strategy was praised using public relations clichés typical of Brussels. For example, Brussels was pursuing the “European way” to “sustainable,” “comprehensive,” and “rules-based” expansion of the infrastructure. More than anything else, this phraseology is aimed at demonstrating an alleged politically moral superiority over China.
Meanwhile, Berlin launched an initial thrust, to give this strategy, at least punctually, a more concrete character. For this purpose, Niels Annen, Minister of State in Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited Kazakhstan from September 17, – 18, and from 19, – 21, Uzbekistan. Since quite some time, the German government has been seeking stronger influence in Central Asia, both out of geostrategic and economic interests. Kazakhstan has large petroleum deposits. In 2016, it was Germany’s fourth largest oil supplier. Turkmenistan, on the other hand, has the world’s fourth largest natural gas deposits. Germany has strengthened its efforts to attain the objective of having Turkmen gas delivered via the Caspian Sea and South Caucasus to the EU. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) In 2007, during the time Germany was the rotating President of the European Council – and under pressure of the German foreign ministry – the EU passed a Central Asia Strategy, aimed at reinforcing the EU’s influence in that region. However, the project ran aground. In the spring of 2016, a correspondent, accompanying Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank Walter Steinmeier, at the time, on his trip to Central Asia, noted that “nothing has come of the Central Asia Strategy.”
The EU is not the only one trying to compete with China’s “Silk Road” project. At the end of July, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, also announced a new initiative aimed toward Asian countries and at weakening China’s growing influence. In its objectives, the initiative, called “America’s Indo-Pacific Economic Vision” is similar to the EU’s connectivity strategy. US $30 million – of the total US $113 million earmarked for the project – will go into the expansion of the infrastructure, US $25 million to promote “digital connectivity” and US $50 million for energy projects. The public relations phraseology used by Pompeo to praise his initiative, strongly resembles that used by the EU. According to him, if the countries in Asia participate in Washington’s new program, they can expect “honest accords,” under “honest conditions” and with “upright business practices.” The United States would “never seek dominance over the Indo-Pacific,” Pompeo claimed. It would confront “any country that would.” The country allegedly seeking dominance that Pompeo is referring to is China, the country Washington currently is engaging in a trade war and other forms of aggression, to shore up its global supremacy.
Full article: The Anti-Silk Road (German Foreign Policy)