Infrastructure is political. A dialogue on connectivity between the European Union and Taiwan
In December 2021, the European Union (EU) launched its own major connectivity project, the Global Gateway Initiative, with a €300-billion budget. Following China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the United States’ Build Back Better World (B3W) programme—among other projects of such nature launched by actors around the world, the EU’s announcement signaled that the international competition for providing infrastructure had truly become global.
A few months later, the major issues around energy, transport and food security raised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, confirmed that infrastructure is not just a technology to connect people, goods and ideas, but is fundamentally political. The European Union has its own way to organise connectivity around the world, respecting human rights, transparency and liberal values. What does it imply for the Indo-Pacific region where the competition for infrastructure projects is the most manifest?
To discuss this issue, the Centre for International Studies (CERI) in cooperation with the European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS), organised a webinar that took the example of Taiwan—a significant economy and democracy of the Indo-Pacific—to analyse the EU’s Global Gateway Initiative. It brought together distinguished representatives of European institutions and Taiwan’s government, as well as Taiwan’s private sector. The seminar is now available as a podcast.
Karoline Postel Vinay, CERI and Christian Lequesne, CERI
Panel 1: Global Gateway: An EU Reply to the Indo Pacific Challenges
Chair: Karoline Postel-Vinay, CERI
- Ms. Romana Vlahutin, EU Ambassador at Large for Connectivity
- Mr. Reinhard Bütikofer, Member of the European Parliament
- Dr. Harry Ho-Jen Tseng, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan
The first panel, “Global Gateway: An EU Reply to the Indo-Pacific Challenges,” highlighted the values-based approach of the European initiative to address the need for connectivity, whether energy, transport, digital, or people-to-people networks. This values-based approach has consequences both on the way physical and virtual infrastructure is built (transparency, sustainability, respect of labour rights, etc) and oriented (access to health, open education, freedom of information, etc). By relying on “like-minded partners” sharing the same political understanding of infrastructure, the EU’s project aims at what could be called “trusted connectivity”.
Panel 2: Global Gateway : New Business Opportunities
Chair: Christian Lequesne, CERI
- Mr. Thibaut Kleiner, Director of DG CONNECT, European Commission
- Dr. Wen-Jing Huang, Assistant Vice-President of CECI Engineering
The second panel, “Global Gateway: New Business Opportunities”, underscored the key role of public-private partnerships in the development of major EU connectivity programmes. Looking at the practical aspects of infrastructure from the private sector’s perspective, the discussion illuminated how the normative framework of Global Gateway, by including standards of due diligence or protection against corruption for example, is shaping the realisation of connectivity projects.
Q/A with the speakers
Chair: Earl Wang, CERI