Experts urge caution over transport corridor between Sweden and China

Frank Jüris
Frank Jüris Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Experts advise Estonia to take caution over the so-called New Silk Road, including a transport corridor between China and Sweden.

Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center) last week discussed with the political delegations of China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Sweden reinforcing cooperation and increasing cargo activity on the so-called Northern Silk Road. Aas said that as Sweden and Norway currently lack a railway corridor into China, it offers an unrealized opportunity to Estonia.

Estonian Foreign Policy Institute junior research fellow Frank Jüris wishes to draw attention to the question of security.

"We can recall how transit through Estonia has been interrupted once because of political reasons - the infamous Bronze Night, after which Russian transit was directed past us. This new trade route would depend on the discretion of two authoritarian states, because this route would pass through Russia, and regarding China, we know of the case when Estonian milk export was closed after the Estonian heads of state met the Dalai Lama," Jüris explained.

"China is already transporting goods to Finland via a land corridor. How viable would another competing route be?"

Reform MEP and former foreign minister Urmas Paet said both Estonian and EU interests have to be considered and it is important who will have control over infrastructure. "A decisive factor is that infrastructure would not be given up to investors connected to China or Russia," Paet said.

The former minister said a major problem lies in the 17+1 format, in which 17 countries in Eastern and Central Europe are cooperating with China. "As a member of EU and NATO, Estonia's position is that Europe must conduct a common policy regarding China. This 17+1 format in which Western European countries are not included, does not reinforce it. I don't believe that Estonia should be a part of this format," he added.

His position is shared by the director of the International Center for Defence and Security (ICDS) Sven Sakkov, who writes in Eesti Ekspress: "It is inevitable that the USA-China confrontation is mirrored in NATO. Europe needs the military support of USA to control Russia. USA needs the political and economical support of Europe to control China. If Europe leaves USA without support in its confrontation, it might result in USA withdrawing from Europe and NATO," Sakkov wrote.

"It is clear that the Baltic States will be the first in EU to be caught in the process. Estonia should withdraw from the 17+1 format," he added.


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Editor: Anders Nõmm

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