By Nicky Kemp

China’s geopolitical ambition in Europe has been manifested by a number of factors in recent past. This is something which certainly requires attention from Europe’s policy makers, particular the ones from those EU member states that are politically leaning towards China.

Indeed, some European Union member states are increasingly leaning towards China-led initiatives in order to exploit economic opportunities. The apex leaders in these member states are preferring to enhance political ties with China, perhaps believing that such political ties could bring-about economic benefits. This approach, however, ignores the risks associated to the political engagement with Asia’s most powerful geopolitical player.

Italy, for example, became the first EU as well as G7 state to officially endorse China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Greece too is one of the member states that are sliding to China’s lap (or perhaps trap). The country recently joined China-led 17+1 grouping. It was 16+1 grouping prior to Greece’s joining. The approach of these member states are, as mentioned above, downplaying the risks involved in political association with China. Furthermore, this undermines the European Union’s effort to shape a common European strategy for China.

The likes of Italy and Greece must understand that their future is best protected with united European approach to almost everything, including relations with an economic and military power like China. Italian and Greek policymakers should realize that individually Italy and Greece are no match for big powers, and their economic and political prospects lie with common strategies with European Union — not otherwise.

These member states should take note of the European Commission’s ‘strategic outlook’ of March 2019. Brussels has not only labeled China a ‘systemic rival’ and ‘economic competitor’, but also acknowledged that China’s geopolitical goals ‘present security issues for the EU, already in a short- to mid-term perspective’.

In the ‘strategic outlook’, the following statement was included with reference to China:

“… an economic competitor in the pursuit of technological leadership, and a systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance.”

Brussels has taken some timely measures to protect European Union’s strategic sectors and critical infrastructure, including an EU framework for foreign investment screening and the guidelines for the security of Europe’s 5G networks. These measures are driven by the EU’s realization that the good economic relations with China has brought about a number of political and security challenges which were initially unpredictable.

Therefore, the likes of Italy and Greece too should understand that they should be more calculative and cautious in maintaining and enhancing their relations with China. Each member state must understand that in case of individualistic approach with China, the burden of drawbacks from the enhanced China relations has to be borne by the member state alone. In contrast, a united approach with China is unlikely to result in a drawback, as there would less scope for miscalculation. Even if united approach brings about some drawback, its burden would be borne unitedly by all the EU member states — and not by each member state separately.

Nicky Kemp is an European and Middle Eastern affairs analyst. She contributes to a number of publishing-websites worldwide.





















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