During an interview on Thursday, vice president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China Massimo Bagnasco said, "basically the point ... is to have a tool that could be used for cooperation with China on the topic of connectivity," referring to the joint EU paper Connecting Europe and Asia: Building blocks for an EU Strategy.
The European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy last week adopted the document setting out the European Union's vision for a new and comprehensive strategy "to better connect Europe and Asia," with sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based connectivity at its core.
"Connectivity means not only transportation for us. It is a matter of decarbonization to reduce emissions, which is also related to the Paris Agreement. It is a matter also of the people-to-people relationships, which also facilitate connectivity," Bagnasco said.
"From that point of view, we do believe that the tool of connectivity platforms should be a useful one to join the Belt and Road Initiative and to find some common ground for cooperation," he said.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a development proposal put forward by China in 2013 envisioning trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient Silk Road routes. China has said its potential cooperation partners are welcome to join their own development initiatives with the BRI.
Bagnasco, who has done business in China for over 15 years, presented the findings of the 2018/2019 release of the chamber's position paper to the European Commission and the European Parliament.
He said that confusion and high expectations on the European side regarding the BRI call for "more dialogue, communication and engagement to find a common ground for cooperation between the Belt and Road and the (EU's) connectivity platform."
Responding to media reports saying that EU's new connectivity plan "is designed to replace the Belt and Road Initiative," Bagnasco said, "as long as the Belt and Road Initiative is transparent, environmental friendly, with clear tender governance and accountability, there will definitely be more cooperation than competition," adding that Africa could provide the grounds for solid cooperation between China and the EU.
Bagnasco, who runs an architectural and design consultancy firm in China, said the main difficulty on the European side could be a lack of a unified approach.
"This could be one of the main issues that slows down the process," he said.
As for the financing of the new initiative, Bagnasco said the European private sector "is always very active and ready to take action as soon as they see opportunities which are reasonable, with a solid business plan and transparent conditions."
Merging both China's and the EU's grand development projects could be the start of a fresh round of cooperation between the two economic giants. "We look forward to an opportunity for putting together the strengths of the European and Chinese sides to reach the best results as a team," said Bagnasco.