Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Dovetailing European and Global Transport Infrastructure Networks

When China’s president Xi Jinping visited Rome and Brussels last year, many politicians expressed to him their concerns about China’s investments in ‘strategic’ sectors, such as ports. Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella was crystal clear in voicing these concerns: «we are deeply Europeans», he said, «we have our own plans» (NB: apparently referring to Trans European Transport Networks- TEN-T), «to which we fully adhere, and we are nations living under the rule of law. These said and out of the way, we are open to discuss with you anything you like». 

President Xi’s answer came the following day in Brussels: «It is not China’s intention to cause problems and disrupt your infrastructure plans; on the contrary, we wish to work “with” you and dovetail those plans with our Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), so that win-win outcomes are achieved in the end».

With Paolo and Roberto we thus decided to write this paper, meant as a ‘roadmap’ towards a revision of our European transport network, dovetailing two extremely complex systems: Our Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The reasons that made us believe such an undertaking would be worth its salt were: a) TEN-T will be revised in three years (2023) anyway; b) Europe’s economic center of gravity moves towards its eastern end; c) it is Europe’s eastern end too that attracts China’s interest, as evidenced by its investments in the port of Piraeus, as well as in Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Baltic States. I am not sure if we achieved our objective. It would be rather na├»ve anyway to believe that issues of such complexity could be addressed comprehensively through a short paper. At any rate, though, we believe that a step in the right direction has been taken, even in the form of ‘advice’ to policy makers in Europe and China. 

HE Haralambides
June 2020

Costa, P., HE Haralambides and R. Roson (2020) ‘From Trans-European (Ten-T) to Trans-Global (Twn-T) Transport Infrastructure Networks. A Conceptual Framework’ in: Francesco Saraceno and Floriana Cerniglia (eds) ‘A European Public Investment Outlook’. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

Oliver Blanchard said about the book: […]Let’s stop being penny wise and pound foolish. Read the carefully argued set of essays contained in this book, and you will understand why increasing public investment is a high priority…(Olivier Blanchard: Robert Solow Professor of Economics Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

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