The Brussels conference on ‘European Union and OBOR’, held with an aim to discuss and understand the China-initiated ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) project, saw major opposition against Beijing’s flagship project and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
The event, held days ahead of the Belt and Road Summit in Beijing and attended by MEPs, diplomats, academics, opinion-makers and journalists, was hosted by the Brussels-based South Asia Democracy Forum (SADF) in the European Parliament (EP) on Friday.
Moderated by Executive Director of the SADF Paulo Casaca, among those who participated in the event were Ryszard Czarnecki, MEP and Vice-President of the EP, Fulvio Martusciello, MEP, Siegfried Wolf, Senior Researcher on the OBOR at the SADF, and Mehran Marri, Baloch representative to the European Union (EU).
Casaca opened the event with his remarks, in which he spoke of the need for greater clarity on the OBOR and the rapid pace at which it was being used by China to make economic and strategic inroads into Europe.
Baloch leader Mehran Marri, in his address, referred to the first-hand experience of local Pakistani communities and the Baloch people, through which the CPEC was passing, while also highlighting their suffering and repression at the hands of the Pakistan army.
On this occasion, a short film on opposition to the CPEC in Pakistan, was also screened.
Marri also stated that China was not driven by any altruistic motives, and was not promoting the OBOR to improve the lives of the local people.
MEP Ryszard Czarnecki cautioned European countries to not take at face value Chinese claims that the OBOR would result in a win-win situation for all partners. He drew specific attention to the CPEC, the OBOR project being implemented on the ground, which had run into deep opposition from locals, who saw it as a means of further exploiting their resources, in keeping with the Chinese track record in Africa.
MEP Fulvio Martusciello referred to the currently stalled Belgrade-Budapest railway project and stated that the unscrupulous methods adopted by China only further confirmed suspicions about the long-term objectives of the OBOR.
Martusciello was of the opinion that through the OBOR, not only would China acquire companies in Europe, it would also try and impose Chinese regulations, standards and gradually increase its influence over countries in the region, making their economic growth dependent on China.
Senior Researcher on the OBOR at the SADF Siegfried Wolf was, however, in full support of Beijing as he highlighted the fact that through the OBOR, China aimed to build a multi-polar world conducive to its national interests, using its economic prosperity over the previous decades to create more political and strategic space for itself, internationally