Inception Workshop of the Series of Regional Track 1.5 Dialogues on the Silk Road Economic Belt: Seeking Common Security Interests between the EU and China

Event: Regional and International Affairs

From April 6th – April 8th 2016 European experts from SIPRI, FES and SWP visited Beijing to participate in the Inception Workshop of the Series of Regional Track 1.5 Dialogues on the Silk Road Economic Belt titled “Seeking Common Security Interests between the EU and China”

Unveiled in 2013, the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative is an ambitious Chinese foreign policy to reactivate the legendary Silk Roads. Although it offers avenues for further cooperation between the EU and China and countries along it, given the precarious security situation in a number of states on the Belt, it will be confronted by challenges. However, so far analyses of the security dimensions of the Belt are largely absent from the discourse. Hence, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) and FES aim to explore the security policy implications of the Belt, and possible avenues for security cooperation by organizing a series of track 1.5 workshops in five capitals along the Belt.

Initially in the morning of April 6th, the experts from Europe had a meeting at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) to hear an analysis of the initiative from the perspective of one of the most outstanding think tanks on foreign policy in China.

On April 7th, the experts from FES, SIPRI, SWP and CICIR held the Inception Workshop of the Series of Regional Track 1.5 Dialogues on the Silk Road Economic Belt titled Seeking Common Security Interests between the EU and China. It consisted of three sessions: Main Political and Security Threats to the Belt, the EU and China’s Common Security Interests and finally the Belt as an opportunity for China and Europe to take on more responsibility for promoting peace and stability in Eurasia. It turned out that, although there might be some possible ways and a strong will for security cooperation between the EU and China concerning OBOR, the main obstacle remaining is the fact that OBOR in many ways is still in the early stages of development. Thus, for the European side the intentions of OBOR are not clear. One Chinese expert appropriately summed up this point by asking “What will OBOR look like?” and giving the answer by himself right away “China will take the next 50 years to see.”

Nevertheless, both Chinese and European participants emphasized the need for cooperation between China and the EU in the context of OBOR in different areas of security, particularly in Central Asia. Participants agreed that China and the EU should enter into a discussion on which areas of security would be most fitting in order to practically cooperate. Furthermore, the perspectives of Central Asian governments and key stakeholders as well as Russia have to be taken into account.

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