On 25 and 26 April 2019, the second “Belt and Road” summit for international cooperation was held in Beijing under the chairmanship of Xi Jinping. Since the first summit held in 2017, the new Silk Roads program has grown significantly and structured. Two years ago, the BRI aroused a certain curiosity on the part of the international community; the “Belt and Road initiative” is now regarded as an essential program for the whole world. At this second summit, important decisions regarding the future of the new Silk Roads were taken. This new summit was also an opportunity to strengthen ties between China and the European Union.
Europe remains very attentive to the BRI project, and unfortunately, the EU has still not formulated a specific policy regarding the Chinese initiative. If China is considered a systemic rival by Brussels, this does not prevent any possible cooperation between the European and Chinese connectivity programs. To date, almost half of EU members have formalized their participation in the new Silk Roads. During this second forum, seven presidents or prime ministers from the European Union went to Beijing: Austrian Sebastian Kurz, Cypriot Nicos Anastasiades, Czech Miloš Zeman, Greek Alexis Tsipras, Hungarian Orbán Viktor , the Italian Giuseppe Conte and the Portuguese Marcelo Rebelo.
If among the European member states, all the European heads of state did not make the trip, their representatives were of the highest level. Thus, in the case of France, at the first BRI summit, only Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former prime minister, fervent supporter of a rapprochement with China attended the event. For this second summit, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Foreign Affairs represented France.
Enhanced cooperation in transport
During this second forum, several agreements between European and Chinese institutions were prepared. First of all, China announced the study of possible common rail projects with the European Commission.
German and Polish rail carriers, along with Chinese, Mongolian, Kazakh, Russian and Belarussian national rail companies have also set up a rail freight development working group.
A strong interest of European companies
Furthermore, European companies show willingness to accelerate Sino-European cooperation for the realization of the new Silk Roads. At this second forum, the German company Siemens signed a MoU to participate in the BRI. Philipp Hammond, British Chancellor of the Exchequer extolled the virtues of British companies for projects related to the BRI.
Matters related to financial cooperation
Infrastructure developed under the BRI require significant resources, and therefore demand greater cooperation among international financial institutions.
At the 2nd BRI Summit, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, of which China is a shareholder, and which operates mainly in Central Asia and the Mediterranean, is committed to developing joint financial mechanisms with Chinese and international institutions such as AIIB. The European Investment Bank may conduct similar actions.
The European Investment Fund, which supports European SMEs, has signed an agreement with the Silk Road Fund to launch a joint investment fund.
It is important to underline that this financial cooperation between European and Chinese institutions focused mainly on green economy. These institutions have gained a strong interest in environmental issues.
Finally, the 2nd BRI Summit brought together participants from around the world, who are beginning to understand that the BRI is not just a Chinese project, and that every country can seize opportunities offered by the BRI. Financial cooperation projects between European and Chinese institutions do not only regards Europe and China, but also other regions of the world; and the BRI becomes truly international.