Munich Personal RePEc Archive

European Union and Big Four’s Position Towards the 16+1 Cooperation Platform

Iulia Monica, Oehler-Șincai and Costin, Lianu and Irina Gabriela, Rădulescu (2017): European Union and Big Four’s Position Towards the 16+1 Cooperation Platform.

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The aim of the present paper is to investigate the position towards the 16+1 framework from the standpoint of the EU as an entity and also the four largest EU countries in terms of GDP, namely Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy. The Big Four are the main recipients of Chinese FDI and are also the most active European exporters to China, while CEE concentrates only a small share of the EU-Chinese trade and investment flows. However, the Big Four are apprehensive with regard to China’s rising competitiveness through national reform policies (such as China 2025 Program) but also via acquisition of high-tech companies. In the competition with a stronger China, these countries and especially Germany consider that the Chinese presence in CEE, alongside the proposed investment projects in infrastructure, including harbours, represent a threat to their established positions in this region and their companies will lose market shares and big infrastructure contracts. Seen from another perspective, in the literature the new framework is considered as a lobby platform, intended to influence the EU decisions through CEE players, which is incompatible with the strategic Sino-EU partnership. As a matter of fact, the EU foreign policy is incoherent in major aspects, including EU-China relation as well. Therefore our investigation focuses on three main aspects. First, we explain how the lack of harmonization between the Big Four and the other EU member states is influencing EU policy towards China. Conferring the Big Four observer status at the 16+1 summits might mitigate tensions. Second we investigate whether the Big Four detain the supremacy in the EU to the detriment of the EU periphery. Third, we underline that the EU needs a common vision towards the Eurasian cooperation, as it includes a new element: the Belt and Road Initiative. One cannot support the BRI by criticizing the 16+1, as the latter is considered by the Chinese authorities a significant component of the BRI. In conclusion, if the CEE countries become a bridge or a wall in the Chinese-EU relations depends only on the ability of all actors to have a balanced relationship with each other.

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