CEEasia Forum 2021: Connectivity

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Analysts and academics from Europe and Asia talked about how the concept of connectivity is perceived in CEE and what challenges does it bring not only for the EU but also for its Asian partners.

The concept of connectivity is included in “EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”, an EU latest document, literally the skeleton of the cooperation plan with the Indo-Pacific. As the dynamic discussion in the CEEasia Forum showed, the definition or understanding of the term can be different. Even so, China may be considered as the first that introduced this concept earlier and talked about the European region as the gateway or bridge in its broader Belt and Road initiative.

Then later, EU key actors with PRC tried to redefine this concept and change the role of the region. The European Council adopted the “Connecting Europe and Asia – Building Blocks for an EU Strategy” which was based on fundamental pillars—energy, transport, digital, and people-to-people links— working on sustainable, secure, and smart connectivity. Now we are in a position where a different understanding of the CEE – Asia connectivity is being sorted completed.

CEE region plays a significant role in Asia investment in Europe, a very important host in market expectation policy toward the EU. That was mainly an old-fashion pattern of investment such as manufacturing, components for the automotive industry, or creating jobs. Nowadays approach includes the CEE region moving towards research and development collaboration and financial incentives with added value. And the innovative Indo-Pacific countries advancing knowledge-based economic development play a significant role. The approach is still in progress and the steps taken by V4 countries are not sufficient, neither is the COVID- 19 pandemic facilitated in receiving the decisive resolutions. Moreover, the pandemic has shown us how quickly the progress of connecting the world can be brought to a halt.

Overall, connectivity strategies continue to develop. In recent years, there has been an increase in initiatives launched by different actors. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy, and the EU’s Strategy for Connecting Europe and the Indo-Pacific region are considered as prominent and relevant ones. However, the mentioned re-evaluation should pay special attention to the role of the CEE countries and their specific set of challenges.