Friday, December 22, 2017

Poland's Plan To Dominate Europe, III: Here Comes China

Okay, I'll stop the "Dominate Europe" schtick.

In addition to the North-South Three Seas commerce route (below) there is something else going on that has grabbed the attention of the eurocrats.

Via New China, May 12, 2016, some of the backstory:

Poland, a gate to Europe in Belt and Road Initiative
WARSAW, May 12 (Xinhua) -- Our 24 hour trip along the Belt and Road now comes to Poland. Let's look at some facts and figures of the cooperation between China and Poland.

Poland was among the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China.

China views Poland as an important partner for cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and within the European Union, said Chinese President Xi Jinping when meeting with Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who is in Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, scheduled for May 14 to 15.

Xi also highlighted environmental protection, finance, high-tech industries, infrastructure and logistics as areas where China and Poland could step up collaboration.

"Poland is a "gate to Europe" as far as the Belt and Road Initiative is concerned," said Chinese Ambassador to Poland, Xu Jian, adding between 2013 and 2016, Chinese-Polish trade volume rose from 14.8 billion U.S. dollars up to 17.6 billion U.S. dollars, with a 6 percent average annual growth rate....MORE
Which led to this July 2017 Xinhua story, again via New China:
China, Poland urged to seize opportunity of Belt & Road Initiative for closer cooperation

Poland is one of the "16" in the 16+1 Trade Group  with China.

The most recent annual meeting of the group a few weeks ago really, really got the eurocrat's attention even though things haven't even gotten rolling yet.

From The Diplomat, November 24:

China’s Charm Offensive in Eastern Europe Challenges EU Cohesion
China is building the 16+1 initiative into a platform for its Belt and Road Initiative, with consequences for the EU.
Hungary in recent months has been associated with a Belt and Road fiasco, as work for the Hungarian stretch of the Belgrade-Budapest railway – China’s most ambitious transport project in Europe – has been halted for allegedly violating EU public procurement laws. But next Monday setbacks will be glossed over by grandiose symbolism as the Hungarian capital prepares itself to welcome the heads of government of China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC). In fact, while Beijing has yet to deliver on its promises for infrastructure investment in the region, it has been working full steam on institutionalizing its cooperation with Eastern Europe, shaping the 16+1 initiative into a platform for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This is turning into a stress test for EU cohesion.

Established in Warsaw in 2012, the 16+1 framework for cooperation is China’s most advanced sub-regional diplomatic initiative in Europe, involving 11 Central and Eastern European EU member states and five Balkan states, each in the process of negotiating their accession to the EU. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, Beijing initiated this format with the promise to foster investment, economic and trade cooperation, and to bring connectivity projects to the region. After the launch of Beijing’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, the format has turned into a platform for China to develop infrastructure projects to connect Asia to Europe – with the aim to facilitate Chinese access to the European market, to export China’s excess capital and labor, and to build its global power.

Institution Building Shows Dynamism in 16+1 Political Relations 
So far at least, China’s economic engagement in the region lags far behind its promises. Despite last year’s announcement of a 10 billion EUR investment fund for infrastructure projects in Central and Eastern Europe, most Chinese investment in Europe has been mainly directed to Europe’s four largest countries in the West, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and France. Hungary is an exception in Eastern Europe, as it has obtained significant investment. At the same time, the Belgrade-Budapest railway – a landmark BRI project – is still blocked by an EU investigation trying into whether it violated EU laws on public tender processes.....MORE
I'll leave this portion of the story with the Financial Times, November 26, 2017;

Brussels rattled as China reaches out to eastern Europe 
Concerns Beijing’s closer ties with EU’s poorer nations will influence bloc’s policies
In Hungary it is hailed as the “Eastward Opening”. Serbian authorities see it as the glue in a “reliable friendship”, while the Polish government describes it as a “tremendous opportunity”. Yet the 16+1, a grouping of 16 central and eastern European countries led by China, receives more caustic reviews in leading EU capitals, with diplomats fearing it could be exploited by Beijing to undermine union rules and take advantage of growing east-west tensions in the pact itself. The catalyst for the group is China’s ability to finance and build the roads, railways, power stations and other infrastructure that some poorer central and eastern European countries need. But the scope of its operations has spilled over into overtly political and strategic areas, breeding mistrust among some of the western European powers that dominate the EU’s agenda. “This sub-regional [16+1] approach is meeting a great deal of suspicion not only in Brussels but also in the capitals of many member states,” says a European diplomat who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the topic.

Another senior European diplomat, who also asked to remain anonymous, says: “The [16+1 is] dealing with many things. Some of them are touching on EU competences, or they are going into new areas where there are already initiatives between the EU and China. And we only see the tip of the iceberg.” Yet as the 16 countries — Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — attend an annual summit in Budapest starting today, it is clear that Beijing’s star is rising in central and eastern European nations.

“The world economy’s centre of gravity is shifting from west to east; while there is still some denial of this in the western world, that denial does not seem to be reasonable,” Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, said in October. “We see the world economy’s centre of gravity shifting from the Atlantic region to the Pacific region. This is not my opinion — this is a fact.” The lure for central and eastern European nations is clear. Since 2012, Chinese companies, backed by state banks, have announced an estimated $15bn in investments in infrastructure and related industries, according to data collected by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank, in co-operation with the Financial Times. “To China, the 16 countries are important in their own right but also as a bridge into the EU,” says Jonathan Hillman, director of the CSIS Reconnecting Asia Project. While modest compared with the EU’s structural funds, which amount to about €80bn for Poland alone for the 2014-20 budget round, the promised investments have been welcomed by the beneficiaries. Serbia, with which China has a “comprehensive strategic partnership” and an “all-weather friendship”, is due an estimated $1.9bn in infrastructure investments, according to the CSIS data. Hungary, with which China officially has a “high level of mutual trust”, has been promised an estimated $1.5bn. Milos Zeman, the Czech president, last year described his country — with whom some $3bn worth of deals has been announced — as “a gateway for the People’s Republic of China to the EU”.

For some in the EU there are two main concerns. The first is that China may intensify efforts to use the influence it is building in central and eastern Europe to frustrate aspects of the EU’s common China policy. The second is that some 16+1 countries may exploit strong ties with China to buttress negotiating positions against Brussels....
...MUCH, MUCH MORE—a major piece

The triggering of Article 7 stuff, the Polish press and the Polish judiciary arguments are important but there is a lot more going on that makes subverting the Polish government—the first  to have an outright majority since freedom in 1989, squarely in the interests of some hugely powerful people.

And I'll leave this part (yes, there is more to come) with a couple maps that hint at what has Brussels getting more and more authoritarian.
From Poland's Plan to Dominate Europe II, the Three Seas Initiative:

And from the FT article, note the overlap:

Okay, one more, this time via the LSE, note the European terminus for One Belt, One Road: