German business circles have shown growing enthusiasm toward the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), even though the German government is still wrangling over the infrastructure-building initiative.
On March 29, the Federal Association of the German Silk Road Initiative (BVDSI) was founded in Bremen, Germany to serve as a platform for establishing project-related contact for economies along the BRI route.
The development opportunities of the BRI - and how to seize them - have apparently become the consensus within and a focus of the German business community.
This eagerness is totally justified, considering that the BRI is now widely seen as the engine for economic growth. Just last month, Italy, resisting pressure from the EU and the US, officially signed a memorandum of understanding with China to endorse the infrastructure-building initiative, becoming the first G7 country to join the BRI. The two sides welcome the signing of the MOU, said a joint communique issued by the two countries. "The two sides stand ready to strengthen the alignment of the BRI and Trans-European Transport Networks and deepen the cooperation in ports, logistics, marine transportation and other areas," said the communique, according to Xinhua.
It is not just Italy. Since the BRI was proposed, more and more countries along the route have signed up for the initiative, including many European countries such as Greece, Portugal, and Poland. And the move could be followed by other EU countries like Germany.
Amid the global economic slowdown and rising anti-globalization sentiment, the economic benefits brought by BRI projects are growing increasingly obvious and becoming more and more attractive to European countries. The BRI promotes the development of infrastructure construction in BRI economies, providing great business opportunities for European companies and industries, which will give a major boost to these economies. Also, against the background of growing political and financial uncertainties in the world, it is necessary for the EU to strengthen bilateral cooperation with China.
Even European leaders have gradually realized that they cannot shun BRI projects. On March 26, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the BRI as an important project in which Europeans wanted to participate, but that also "must lead to a certain reciprocity, and we are still wrangling over that a bit."
It is understandable for Germany, as an EU leader, to worry about China's economic influence on EU politics via BRI projects. But EU countries should not let suspicion get in the way of cooperation and common interests, which should outweigh differences. As an important country along the BRI route, Germany should seriously consider how to seize the opportunity to jump onto the bandwagon. For regional economic gains, the country really needs to take a more pragmatic approach on this issue.
While some European countries may still have doubts about the BRI, China should maintain an open attitude. After all, a BRI MOU is a non-binding agreement. While China may make continuous efforts to dispel some doubts, it can also make use of the successful example of Italy to show the benefits of joining the BRI and win more support for the initiative.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times.