EU fixes projects for Global South as rival to China

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union concluded a two-day forum on Thursday designed to woo the Global South with 3 billion euros ($3.16 billion) of signed investments in infrastructure, digital and climate projects as an alternative to China’s rival scheme.

The EU’s Global Gateway is designed to invest 300 billion euros, half of it in Africa, from 2021 to 2027.

The projects are in areas such as energy, transport, education and research, along with partnerships to help the European Union secure minerals critical for its green transition and reduce reliance on China.

Partnerships sealed during the two-day forum included one with Mauritania on green hydrogen and with Uzbekistan and Zambia on critical raw materials.

The Global Gateway Forum came a week after China hosted a 10th anniversary celebration of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), where $97.2 billion worth of projects were signed.

Critics say some of China’s infrastructure lending has saddled poor countries with loans they cannot repay.

EU officials say the Global Gateway ensures local communities benefit from infrastructure projects and promotes high social and environmental standards.

“We want to de-risk, we want to reduce dependencies…. but we hear similar objectives and aims from our partners,” Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships, told journalists.

The commissioner said the EU was the world’s largest provider of oversees development aid, the biggest investor in and trade partner of Africa and other parts of the world.

“Bringing all this together, I’m very confident that we will be able to strengthen our global role and be more efficient, more strategic and a more important global player,” she said.

Urpilainen said her talks with African countries showed many did not want more loans but wanted to work with the EU, although at times wanted it to move faster.

($1 = 0.9482 euros)

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop)