Paris. 11 September. REPORT.AZ/ Exclusive comment of president of the Paris-based Institute for European Prospective and Security (IPSE) Emmanuel Dupuy to Report.
Today there is an agreement between the European Union (EU) and China that covers nearly 25 different areas. Nevertheless, each of the EU states is striving individually to develop its relations with China in its own interests.
Thus, the relations between the EU countries and China reminds the shape of a "triangle". Each of the EU states is eager to establish bilateral relations with China, which serves their own interests. Moreover, those states attempt to pursue a policy that serves the common interests of the EU, representing 28 countries in the World Trade Organization.
The EU seeks to avoid weakness by demonstrating its diplomatic and economic power today in the relations with China which accounts for 30% in the world growth with 80 billion Yuan (10.2 billion euros) GDP.
National interests of Germany, France and Great Britain or EU's fate
After 43 years of diplomatic relations between the European Union and China, it is clear that Europe's position towards China is not fully balanced. Each of the EU countries spares no effort for becoming China's number one partner in Europe. For example, Germany and the UK prefer economic interests to diplomatic ties.
Entering the "New Silk Road" project with great enthusiasm and speed Germany tries to make the most of its prospects by demonstrating a big “appetite” for China's investments within this project. Unlike French President Emmanuel Macron, who has taken a back seat for already a few months, Angela Merkel succeeded in gathering EU member-states around her. Making use of these profound disagreements among the EU states, China is applying its tactics of agreeing with the leaders of the countries to establish dialogue with Europe.
The appointment of Great Britain’s 75th Prime Minister David Cameron, one of the key political figures in the UK's public life, to leading positions in the projects implemented within the 'New Silk Road' is a clear example of the great significance this country attaches to economic cooperation with China.
Regarding France's position, French President Emmanuel Macron's "coldness" during his official visit to Beijing showed that France was not interested in this project.
France's investment in China's infrastructure has been viewed as an attempt to reinforce its influence and has thus led to disagreements between France and some EU countries, as well as Germany. France believes that China's relations with Europe should be based on economic cooperation; China's projects should not be considered as exceptional, on the contrary, on the basis of mutual control and inspection. For these reasons, from the very first day France has decided to refrain from joining the New Silk Road project officially.
Azerbaijan as a third-party country
China is trying to take advantage of this scattering among the European countries in its economic interests. China is investing heavily in the railway infrastructure of Serbia. One more country is Greece, where companies belonging to China are active and even the Port of Piraeus was bought by one of these companies. China attaches great importance to projects related to Central Asia, Caucasus and Europe, especially the geopolitical transit infrastructure related to gas and oil. Azerbaijan has broad cooperation opportunities in energy, as well as in property and passenger transportation. First of all, sustainable development of Azerbaijan's harmonious dialogue with China will be a necessary factor. In this case, Azerbaijan is taking a number of steps ahead of its neighbor Armenia. Thus, the railway line bypasses Armenia and connects Baku and Batumi. Azerbaijan can use its successful geographical position to play the trustee role for China. Because coming closer to the European border via Central Asia directly depends on the success of the Caucasian corridor, which is part of the silk road.
Azerbaijan can act as a third partner on the back of the difficulties between the European countries and China. Appeals to the World Trade Organization for resolving disputes between China and the European Union include 25 trade agreements in the current period. The bilateral cooperation maintained with significant gaps records effective differences. While China's investment in Africa has increased by 77%, Europe's investment in China has grown by only 23%. France, the second largest supplier in Europe and biggest European entrepreneur in China (1,100 companies and 600,000 jobs) is the 7th biggest importer of Chinese goods. Thus, Azerbaijan can take advantage of this situation in two ways. First, it can assist China in establishing a dialogue with the European Union. Secondly, through cooperation with various European countries like Paris, London or Berlin Azerbaijan can gain prospects for participation in regulating ties with official Beijing.
Leading economic partner or number one actor ensuring security in the world
Although EU has put an embargo on arms import to China due to repressions against the rally participants in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, today China remains EU’s second largest economic partner after the US. China is the producer of majority of solar panels and wind turbines in the world. It ensures 40% of solar energy worldwide.
After the sincere intention of the Chinese President to join the greenhouse gas emissions commitment at the One Planet Summit, held on 12 December last year, it was followed by a consensus.
Notably, despite the 4% decline in 2016, China remains the first country to pollute air with greenhouse gas (29%). After the US decision to abide by the Paris Treaty on climate in June 2017, China's "zeal" has been hailed by the European states. Last month, the US announced a new trade war on China with the decision to impose a $200 billion additional customs duty on imports of Chinese goods thus pushing China into the "whisper" of Europe.
Closer involvement of 2,500 Chinese in UN peacekeeping operations and financial aid to the United Nations has made China one of the world's fastest growing actors.
The importance of Azerbaijan's geography and strategic position is growing
Finally, granting status to the Caspian Sea, as well as applying the same rules in the field of customs and tax, have opened new perspectives for a wider use of the Caspian Sea for commercial purposes. The construction of a railway line embracing China, the Caucasus and Europe, and other similar projects is further enhancing the geographical and strategic position of Azerbaijan. Gazprom still ensures 65% of the gas needs of Europe which seeks to overcome dependence on Russian gas in 2045. This dependence puts some of the countries into a disadvantageous position. So Europe has two ways: either to continue living with energy dependence on Russia or to move on a new route. If it chooses the latter, the Caucasus will become its main partner and this partnership will be implemented in the context of cooperation with China, which is considered the main energy consumer.