Connecting Eurasia: EU-Russia-China-Central Asia Strategic Dialogue on Connectivity

04/12/2018 | 09:00 - 17:00 | Russian International Affairs Council, Moscow | Invitation only

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For the EU, Russia, China, and not least the Central Asian states, transcontinental commercial, financial, economic and physical connectivity in Eurasia bears considerable common ground. Gathering for a strategic workshop, experts exchanged views on various ways to fortify this connectivity.

© Russian Council (RIAC), CC BY-NC-S

There are many economic sectors which bear considerable potential for trilateral cooperation among the EU, Russia and China in Eurasia, including logistics and transport. In order to further advance cooperation between the EU and Eurasian Economic Union (EUEA), however, both sides need to take steps to go beyond the exchange of technical information on trade and transport to encompass technical regulations, custom procedures, and the creation of joint logistic centers in Central Asia.

This was one of the findings resulting from the workshop “Connecting Eurasia: EU-Russia-China-Central Asia Strategic Dialogue on Connectivity”, held in Moscow by the Robert Bosch Center at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC).

Experts engaged in a lively discussion on which corridors and countries should take priority in the Eurasian connectivity. While Evgeny Vinokurov from the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development advocated a focus on the East Asia-Russia-Europe route via Kazakhstan and Russia, Wu Wenhua from the National Development and Reform Commission spoke about China’s plans to add new routes through southern corridors, crossing Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan.

China is a key actor in the Eurasian region. As Professor Fabienne Bossuyt from Ghent University emphasized, the cooperation between the EU and China is intensifying in Central Asia, in parallel to the financial cooperation between the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The fact that in Eurasia, China is converging toward the EU´s understanding of social and environmental standards provides the EU with a great opportunity.

With respect to multilateral cooperation in security, the discussion focused less on the OSCE as a connectivity forum and more on non-Western institutions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). While Russia remains a pivotal security provider in the region, China is increasing its profile in different fields in the SCO. It could represent a platform where China, Russia, India and Pakistan could discuss common effort for the stabilization and integration of Afghanistan and for the fight against the “Islamization” of Central Asian societies.

Supported by the Planning Staff of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, the seminar aimed to initiate a deeper strategic debate within the EU as well as among the EU, China, Russia and Central Asian states on transcontinental commercial, financial, economic and physical connectivity. The constructive atmosphere of the workshop seemed to reflect the many opportunities that lay ahead in this respect.

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