The European Commission launched the worldwide forum of its flagship foreign infrastructure investment scheme, the Global Gateway, on Wednesday (25 October) – just one week after China held its own forum to celebrate the successes of its own programme .
The EU’s Global Gateway programme, launched two years ago, aims to invest €300 billion by 2027 into infrastructure development worldwide, such as vaccine factories, roads, high-speed internet connection, digitalisation of transport and critical raw material deals.
Marketed as an alternative to the Chinese “debt trap”, the Global Gateway was built to counter Beijing’s €1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) investment loans, which were launched 10 years ago to link the world to Beijing in the same style as the ancient Silk Road.
“We also need to ask ourselves: how can we do more, together? What have we learnt so far? What do we need to prioritise to be even faster, go even bigger, and have even more impact?” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen asked partner countries and investors in her welcoming speech on Wednesday (25 October), when kicking-starting the forum in Brussels.
The European Commission organised the Global Gateway summit to reflect on the future of its development aid and relationships with third countries, as it faces competition from China, Russia and other major players.
Since its launch, the European scheme has started 89 projects in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific, and Sub-Saharan Africa and committed €66 billion.
The EU’s event comes a week after the summit for the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative Forum (BRIF), which Russian President Vladimir Putin attended as a guest alongside Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, African leaders, and the prime minister of Hungary Viktor Orban.
The Europeans’ voices can however struggle to be heard in those developing countries, where they compete with quicker investments, especially from China.
“Because we know that many of our projects are just taking off, we are determined to overcome any hurdles and succeed, and your input and advice are very important to us,” von der Leyen told the floor of third countries representatives and investors.
Some countries such as Brazil have complained that the EU’s offers aren’t decided in coordination with the state authorities and don’t take local needs into account.
Arguing for the European offer, von der Leyen said that “Global Gateway is about giving countries a choice, and a better choice. Because for many countries around the world, investment options are not only limited, but they all come with a lot of small print and a very high price”.
“Sometimes it is the environment that pays the price, sometimes it is workers, who are stripped of their rights, sometimes foreign workers are brought in, and sometimes it is national sovereignty that is compromised,” she added.
On the sidelines of the summit, the EU executive also announced new deals on critical raw materials with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia to lessen each side’s dependency on each other’s markets in offer and demand.
“We are more and more talking about competition of offers, not only competition of narratives,” Development Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen told Euractiv earlier this month.
According to one EU official, the fact that the first Global Gateway Forum brought together over 40 high-level government representatives shows that Global Gateway “is delivering”, hinting that it competes well in volume with its Beijing counterpart, the BRIF.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]
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