The Platform


“As part of our global recovery, we want to redesign how we connect the world to build forward better.” – Ursula von der Leyen

The EU’s Global Gateway is the most recent sizable offer in the geopolitical battle to sponsor infrastructure projects in developing countries. In 2021, the European Union unveiled Global Gateway as a plan to promote sustainable infrastructure development throughout the globe.

Spending of €300 billion is planned for the initiative’s five-year run. The European Commission advocated for Global Gateway as a model for how Europe can build stronger links around the world. Catalyzing and supporting private sector investment in new markets is also an important part of the initiative, along with promoting good governance, and developing partnerships based on equality, and green, clean, and secure infrastructure.

Global Gateway is comparable to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was launched in 2013. The BRI has focused its attention on massive investment initiatives aimed at constructing and improving infrastructure projects in countries all over the globe. While the BRI is a comprehensive investment initiative, Global Gateway is more sector-specific and aims to move quickly. The key to Global Gateway is the use of national and EU resources from financial institutions and development banks, with the expectation that such investment would free up substantial private capital.

Global Gateway could have far-reaching ramifications for the EU and international cooperation. By strengthening economic and political links with developing countries, the EU may better compete with China and the United States in the global infrastructure-providing market. As a result of securing market access and standard-setting measures for the goods and services required to deliver infrastructure projects, the EU’s industrial and competition policies could be exported, potentially boosting economic growth within the EU, and increasing its global influence.

In order to address the core reasons for migration to Europe and diminish the political and economic obstacles, the EU’s geopolitical position might be strengthened by focusing on stabilizing the political, economic, and security of the countries where migrants are coming from. By creating a more uniform framework, Global Gateway could put more EU resources under the supervision of the European Commission, which would strengthen the EU’s strategic independence.

A new reality has emerged

The primary goal of the Belt and Road Initiative is to link the world’s most important cities and trade networks. The aim of China’s efforts is to connect the world’s major ports from the South China Sea to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. An alternative marine route that would connect Europe and China through the North Pole has also been included in the BRI proposals.

Global Gateway may be modified to suit the needs and strategic priorities of different regions. It intends to strengthen ties between the European Union and Latin America, Africa, and Central Asia. The European Union, its members, and European financial institutions will all contribute to Global Gateway’s implementation under a strategy called “Team Europe.” As a result, actors will be encouraged to launch new initiatives and existing ones will get more funding. Because of the recent turmoil in the world economy, this kind of boost in connectivity is needed.

Global Gateway is a values-driven organization with high social, environmental, economic, and labour standards. It will prioritize fibre optic connections, transit corridors, and clean power transmission lines to boost digital, transportation, and energy networks. The Belt and Road Initiative, on the other hand, seeks to develop infrastructure via land corridors.

Global Gateway’s finance strategy combines grants, soft loans, and guarantees to attract private sector investment, whereas the BRI concentrates solely on loans. Global Gateway also aims to strengthen the rule of law, high standards of human, social, and labour rights, and respect for international norms and intellectual property standards, which China has largely chosen to ignore. The majority of BRI project financing is done through bilateral agreements between lending banks and recipient governments, which means that the contents of funding agreements are usually not made public.

Global Gateway is anticipated to compete with the Belt and Road Initiative and provide a credible alternative. According to some analysts, despite its stated goals, Global Gateway sounds strikingly similar to the BRI. Furthermore, Europe wanted to secure the free movement of commodities via the sea lines of communication, which account for 70% of its commerce in the area. The long-term advantage is intimately tied to connection investments. On the other hand, the BRI effort is primarily concerned with the expansion of Chinese dominance in the area.

In response to this trend, the EU and the U.S. sought to reach a strategic stance while also seeing China as a systematic opponent, and Global Gateway and BRI initiatives share some key parallels in this regard. Nonetheless, Global Gateway must make significant efforts to surpass China’s investment of almost $740 billion.

Although the EU intends to invest globally, projects in Southeast Asia and the Western Balkans are key objectives on the EU’s new investment agenda. Historically, the EU has invested more heavily in the Western Balkans than China has. However, as part of the BRI, China has recently been quite active in the region. There have been no pledges made as part of Global Gateway, but there are signs that some of the first projects will be undertaken in the Western Balkans.

Global Gateway is unlikely to directly challenge China’s infrastructure funding and building dominance. The BRI has been around since 2013 so it has a head start. The BRI’s flexibility and efficiency make it appealing. However, to get up to speed, Global Gateway will need to avoid squaring up to the BRI on its own turf and instead play to the strengths of the EU’s infrastructure financing model, albeit tweaking it by allowing some flexibility in how projects are funded and constructed. As Ursula von der Leyen was quoted as saying “We are good at financing roads. But it does not make sense for Europe to build a perfect road between a Chinese-owned copper mine and a Chinese-owned harbour.”

S.M. Saifee Islam is a Research Analyst at the Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.