The same goes for policies to diversify supply chains carried out by States and which may not appear financially advantageous for companies. Is there a fine line between the two? The concept of geology could provide some clarification in this sense. RailFreight.com interviewed Marie Krpataresearcher at the Committee for the Study of Franco-German Relations (Cerfa) and expert on the subject.
Krpata’s latest research focuses on the concept of geology and, most notably, China’s influence on Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans region. She is also interested in China’s influence on Germany and German ports such as Hamburg and Duisburg.
What is geology?
As one might assume, the concept lies somewhere between geopolitics and logistics. “I think it’s at the intersection of interconnections, modes of transportation, destinations and geopolitics. It is therefore logistics at the service of geopolitics“, explains Krpata.
When talking about China’s involvement in European infrastructure, Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans are good examples of European regions where China is trying to build allies.
However, these regions could also become the “stepping stones to access the Western European market where barriers to entry are higher and the region is also vital in terms of exporting goods and is the main producer of knowledge and innovative technologies“, underlines Krpata.
Through the Global Gateway initiative, the EU “is trying to give impetus to an outbound strategy using European Union resources but also co-financing solutions with the private sector, and it is trying to target specific regions of the world and specific projects in the world. , for example, the Western Balkans”, explains Krpata.
However, EU strategies also focus a lot on reducing dependencies with existing partners, and these strategies could also serve as a tool for future logistical mapping and reprogramming of the Union.
The difference between the EU and China lies in the more fragmented nature of the decision-making process. “France is very favorable to strategic autonomy, which is of concern to other countries. On the other hand, Germany is trying to promote this discourse of diversification rather than protectionism, believing that it is also China’s main trading partner and that it wishes to maintain this profile while remaining vigilant in the face of international developments. .“, tell Krpata.
An opportunity to align
COSCO’s acquisition of a 24.9 percent stake in the Tollerort container terminal in the Port of Hamburg could be the starting point for this process:
“There have been many political debates on this subject, with six German ministries opposing the allocation of participation to COSCO. The European Commission was also against. German intelligence services also opposed it and the chancellor decided to authorize the deal,” says Krpata. “But now,” she continued, “HHLA said it would need to better understand whether it could sell that stake to another company and what it would need to consider based on where that company came from.” Questions may arise regarding public companies, participation thresholds and the influence of the company on strategic decisions.
Simply put, what HHLA is trying to determine is a framework within which it can conduct its international activities, requiring clear risk mapping. “These are some questions that must be addressed with transparency and clarity. Governments must work with businesses on this mapping and on defining some objective tools, also taking into account decisions taken by the EU’s strategic partners that may still have an impact on European businesses.“, concludes Krpata.
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