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Expressed by artificial intelligence.

The European Union’s response to China’s network of trade and infrastructure projects around the world is finally becoming real.

Europe’s flagship projects, Global Gateway, seek to offer developing countries an alternative to China’s strategic largesse under the Belt and Road Initiative, through which Beijing projects its power along strategic trade routes via port developments, energy projects and telecommunications networks.

Early EU Global Gateway projects include a digital cable under the Black Sea; an undersea fiber optic cable to link the countries of the Mediterranean and North Africa, and a dam and hydroelectric power station in Cameroon.

These are just some of the 70 projects the EU is prioritizing this year under the Global Gateway, according to a document obtained by POLITICO.

“Global Gateway becomes concrete. Now we are serious,” a senior EU official said of the project’s list of results.

The Global Gateway aims to mobilize up to €300 billion in public and private funds by 2027 to finance EU infrastructure projects abroad.

By comparison, China has invested nearly $2.3 trillion in nearly 4,000 overseas investment and construction projects since 2005, giving Beijing a head start just as the EU launches its efforts to expand its economic reach.

Belt and Road projects account for about $370 billion of that amount, the American Enterprise Institute estimates, with the pace of spending slowing due to the economic impact of Beijing’s coronavirus pandemic suppression policy. which was only mitigated at the end of last year.

Project selection

The West has come under repeated criticism that its efforts to challenge the Belt and Road are too fragmented and slow.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a meeting of EU foreign ministers last month that the bloc needed to up its game and deliver visible results on the ground. This meeting resulted in the selection of a first batch of projects.

“It shows what Global Gateway will look like in practice on the ground in 2023,” said a second EU official.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the bloc needs to up its game | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Some of Global Gateway’s projects are low-hanging fruits, with concrete milestones on the way this year, such as starting construction, signing a memorandum of understanding, or getting financing in place. In the meantime, the EU will start laying the foundations for other projects in the years to come.

The first official stressed that the list did not reflect any geopolitical choice. “There is no political message behind this,” the official said.

But some sensitive projects may have geopolitical ramifications.

The EU has several projects planned in China’s backyard, such as an energy transition partnership with Indonesia and a digital connectivity project in the Philippines. The same goes for some projects in Russia’s backyard, such as a hydrogen project in Kazakhstan, a transport link in Central Asia, two projects in Mongolia and a hydroelectric power plant in Tajikistan.

The list of priorities was first discussed by EU diplomats last Friday. There will be further talks this week, with the aim of wrapping up the list in the week of February 6, the two EU officials said.

This story has been updated.

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