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BRI to create substantial opportunities for Europe

By Wang Yiwei (People's Daily Overseas Edition)    10:17, March 22, 2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping published a signed article titled “East Meets West —— A New Chapter of Sino-Italian Friendship” on March 20 on the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera ahead of his state visit to the European country.

In the article, the Belt and Road and Marco Polo who is closely related to the Silk Road, were frequently mentioned by the Chinese president.

China hopes to work with Italy to advance the Belt and Road cooperation, the article said. The two countries will harness their historical and cultural bonds forged through the ancient Silk Road as well as their geographical locations to align connectivity cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative with Italy’s plan to develop its northern ports and the InvestItalia program, and jointly build the Belt and Road of the new era on sea, on land, in the air, in space and in the cultural domain.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at a recent foreign policy seminar that Italy is willing to join the co-construction of the Belt and Road, as it will bring new opportunities to the country.

In fact, the co-construction of the Belt and Road will create substantial opportunities, not only for Italy, but also for the whole Europe.

It will create opportunities for economic revival of Europe. Upon the proposal of the BRI, the European Commission (EC) expressed its willingness to align the Juncker Plan, a 315-billion-euro investment scheme to boost private investment in European infrastructure projects, with the BRI.

The EC reiterated its willingness in joining the BRI in a policy paper on connectivity of the Eurasian continent it released last year.

Valuing the opportunities to be provided by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and Switzerland have all joined the organization. It is an effective measure for these European countries to enhance the influence of the British pound, euro and Swiss franc.

In addition, the co-construction of the BRI will create opportunities for Europe to explore its unique advantages. Some European countries and cities have already become connectivity gateways or pivots under the BRI. Some of them from Eastern Europe are now the forerunners of Europe-Asia interconnectivity, gaining extra competitiveness than their European peers.

Cities such as Prague and Budapest have opened multiple air routes to China, becoming regional aviation hubs. The China-Europe freight trains are also energizing the logistics services and industries of countries and cities along the railways, making central and eastern European countries a stronger bond linking China and Europe.

The BRI turned Balkan countries from a powder keg into an important pivot of land-sea connectivity, and the Belgrade-Budapest railway is a great example. It also turned Azerbaijan, which was depicted as a geopolitical pivot in Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book The Grand Chessboard, into a geo-economic pivot.

In the BRI network of connectivity, even small countries can become regional and global pivots, to promote connectivity in traditional aspects and soft connectivity of systems, policies, rules and standards, and to create connectivity in more new areas.

The joint construction of the Belt and Road will further facilitate the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership. Based on the China-EU 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation, China and the EU are negotiating on a bilateral investment pact, and going through feasibility research of an EU-China free trade agreement.

The BRI will provide greater energy for these efforts, and also promote the development of China-EU partnership of peace, growth, reform and civilization.

Currently, CHINA RAILWAY Express have made 14,000 trips between China and 49 cities in 15 European countries, linking countries together for shared development and building a new type of partnership featuring cooperation and win-win results.

The joint construction of the Belt and Road offers the EU an easier access to the participation of Asia-Pacific affairs.

The BRI brings Europe and Asia closer to each other through land- and sea-based transport links, allows Europe to take part in Asia-Pacific affairs more conveniently, increases the EU’s capability to grasp the development opportunities of the Asia-Pacific region, and expands EU’s influence in the region.

The BRI is valued by European countries. So far, 16 central and eastern European countries have signed intergovernmental memoranda of understanding on Belt and Road cooperation with China under the framework of China-central and eastern European countries cooperation. Greece, Portugal and Malta have also joined the BRI “circle of friends”.

The joining of these countries indicates the dividends generated by the BRI and the initiative’s rising popularity in Europe.

It is believed that the BRI will become a buzzword during President Xi Jinping’s upcoming state visits to Italy, Monaco and France.

(Wang Yiwei is a Jean Monnet Chair Professor of the European Union, and a senior researcher at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China)

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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