Tusk can pri­or­i­tize build­ing bridge with China

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

Dur­ing the eco­nom­i­cally and so­cially tur­bu­lent years since 2007, Euro­peans have ba­si­cally suf­fered two re­ces­sions. And another one is around the cor­ner if the newleadership of the Euro­pean Union does not han­dle the eco­nomic re­cov­ery prop­erly.

Buck­ing this trend, mea­sured by eco­nomic statis­tics, Poland has stood out as the only econ­omy in the EU that has not con­tracted dur­ing the years when Don­ald Tusk was that coun­try’s prime min­is­ter over that pe­riod.

With such en­cour­ag­ing cre­den­tials, the 57-year-old Tusk has be­come the sec­ond full-time pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil since the be­gin­ning of this month, re­plac­ingHer­man Van Rom­puy, and will host his de­but sum­mit of Euro­pean lead­ers on Thurs­day and Fri­day. Of course, Euro­peans have shoul­dered him with the tremen­dous re­spon­si­bil­ity of re­peat­ing the Pol­ish suc­cess story and bring­ing to an end the eco­nomic cri­sis, and he listed this as one of his four pri­or­i­ties on his first day of tak­ing of­fice in Brussels.

From the ini­tial agenda of the sum­mit set up by his of­fice, the Euro­pean lead­ers will look at fur­ther ef­forts to foster growth, jobs and Euro­pean com­pet­i­tive­ness and they will dis­cuss in par­tic­u­lar the com­mis­sion’s ini­tia­tive of mo­bi­liz­ing 315 bil­lion euros ($392.18 bil­lion) of in­vest­ment from 2015 to 2017.

Tusk’s col­leagues in Cen­tral and East­ern Europe are ex­pected to bring fresh ideas to the Brussels sum­mit to ma­te­ri­al­ize the colos­sal in­vest­ment blue­print after the ThirdMeet­ing of Heads of Gov­ern­ment of China and Cen­tral and East­ern Euro­pean Coun­tries in Bel­grade this week.

On top of the 69 co­op­er­a­tion projects be­tween China and the coun­tries im­ple­mented after the sec­ond meet­ing in Ro­ma­nia last Novem­ber, vis­it­ing Premier Li Ke­qiang has pledged to in­ject more in­vest­ment to boost in­fra­struc­ture and sea and land con­nec­tions be­tween China and the re­gions. While in­tro­duc­ing China’s Silk Road Belt and Road Ini­tia­tives, Li has par­tic­u­larly pro­moted China’s high-speed rail­way tech­nol­ogy and also nu­clear power gen­er­a­tion.

China has set its eyes on theWest and it is fo­cus­ing on the Cen­tral and East­ern Euro­pean coun­tries, where there is po­ten­tial for fur­ther de­vel­op­ment.

Tusk should well re­mem­ber the first such meet­ing be­tween China and the 16 Cen­tral and East­ern Euro­pean coun­tries, which was held in War­sawin 2012 when he was prime min­is­ter of Poland. He was stand­ing next to for­mer pre­mierWen Ji­abao when the group photo was taken. Tusk also at­tended the sec­ond such gath­er­ing in Bucharest in Novem­ber 2013.

China wants to in­crease its in­vest­ment and trade flow in the re­gion, as the trade vol­ume be­tween China and the 16 Cen­tral and East­ern Euro­pean coun­tries is less than one-third of that be­tween China and Ger­many. And China’s to­tal in­vest­ment in the coun­tries has been less than that in Italy.

Decades ago, China opened up its east­ern coastal re­gions and at the turn of the cen­tury, it came up with theWestern De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram to boost the open­ing-up of its in­land ar­eas. Now, the Chi­nese lead­er­ship has of­fered a timely recipe to Asia and Europe by en­cour­ag­ing con­nec­tions through in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tions.

Within the Euro­pean Union, it is ur­gent to bridge the de­vel­op­ment gap be­tween the west and the east, so Brussels also needs to look east.

To some ex­tent, Tusk has al­ready sent a strong sig­nal to help achieve this. Shortly after he moved to Brussels this month, Tusk ac­cepted Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s invitation to visit Beijing as soon as pos­si­ble.

Brussels has just made pub­lic its in­ten­tion to use 21 bil­lion euros of fis­cal fund­ing to chan­nel 315 bil­lion euros in ad­di­tional pri­vate in­vest­ment. But how it will ac­cu­mu­late and use th­ese funds is still un­known.

At the sum­mit this Thurs­day and Fri­day, when Euro­pean lead­ers dis­cuss the po­ten­tial projects to put EU’s 315-bil­lion-euro in­vest­ment plan on pa­per, the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and East­ern and Cen­tral Euro­pean coun­tries can of­fer food for thought. The au­thor is China Daily’s chief cor­re­spon­dent in Brussels. fu­jing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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