The European connectivity initiative has been long in the making and is in many ways the most obvious response to the challenges the EU is confronted with under the changing geopolitical conditions. When moving forward on the initiative now, there are at least three straightforward outcomes that could serve as criteria for what constitutes a success.
Firstly, any new initiative must rapidly lead to an increase in actual high-quality infrastructure projects in countries of strategic concern to EU interests – particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. While this may sound trivial, only if actual projects clearly labeled as being the result of the EU’s new infrastructure push are introduced quickly will it gain any steam and traction.
Secondly, this traction will need to be translated into making the EU a much more visible connectivity partner, which would be another key success factor. To achieve this, European activity in this realm needs to be capitalized on in terms of diplomatic and economic opportunities by a straightforward outreach and communication campaign.
Thirdly, the initiative needs to create complementarity and cooperation among market economies to improve competitiveness with China. Only if the EU approach is sensibly aligned with the policies and initiatives of the US, Japan and other partners, with common or harmonized standards and joint financing opportunities through national as well as international development banks, will it leverage its full potential. This could enable companies from Europe, the US, Japan and other market economies to engage in higher risk or less immediately financially profitable projects with adequate backing and thus provide a real alternative to China’s Belt and Road endeavors.