EU checking how China-linked firm got on its business board for Global Gateway infrastructure drive

The European Commission is “looking into” how a company whose biggest shareholder is a Chinese state-owned enterprise ended up on a board of businesses advising its flagship infrastructure drive, Global Gateway.

On Tuesday, the Post revealed that Energias de Portugal SA (EDP) was among the companies that will advise the commission on “implementation of the Global Gateway strategy and scaling up of Global Gateway flagship”, even though its largest shareholder, China Three Gorges (CTG), is owned by the Chinese government.

Asked about the Post’s exclusive story, commission spokesman Eric Mamer said he did not know how EDP ended up on the list, but suggested it would be investigated internally.

“I believe it’s a matter of public knowledge, since EDP is a listed company, what its shareholding is. I cannot comment on what basis DG INTPA used when it selected this company for the advisory board, that is something that we are looking into,” Mamer said, referring to the EU’s department of international partnerships, which runs Global Gateway.

As EDP’s biggest shareholder, CTG – which is controlled by the Chinese government’s State Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) – owns its largest voting rights.

SASAC “is an institution that is responsible for carrying out the obligations assigned by the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee”, according to Datenna, a Dutch intelligence firm.

Raquel Almeida Correira, an EDP spokeswoman, declined to comment on the company’s ownership structures or decision-making processes.

EU’s counter to China’s belt and road has Beijing-linked firms on its board

“Obviously, somebody did not do their homework. Write 100 times: ‘We should not be naive’,” wrote Reinhard Bueitkofer, the head of the European Parliament’s China delegation, on X, formerly Twitter.

On Wednesday, von der Leyen launched the inaugural Global Gateway forum in Brussels with a thinly veiled swipe at Beijing’s lending practices.

“For us, it is important that Global Gateway is about giving choices to countries – better choices,” said the German before a room of leaders, ministers and diplomats from the Global South.

“Because for many countries around the world, investment options are not only limited, but they all come with a lot of small print, and sometimes with a very high price.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addresses the EU Global Gateway Forum in Brussels on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

“Sometimes it is the environment that pays the price,” she added. “Sometimes it is workers, who are stripped of their rights. Sometimes foreign workers are brought in. And sometimes national sovereignty is compromised.

“No country should be faced with a situation in which the only option to finance its essential infrastructure is to sell its future.”

Some attendees appeared uncomfortable with the rhetoric. Speaking to the Post on the summit’s sidelines, Kitila Mkumbo, Tanzania’s planning and investment minister, suggested that African countries did not want to choose between Europe and China.

Global Gateway and China’s Belt and Road Initiative should be “complementary, not competition”, said Mkumbo of Beijing’s trading network.

4 lost years: how the EU fumbled its response to China’s belt and road

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has been beset by accusations of such practices. In some cases, it has been accused of practising “debt-trap diplomacy”, whereby it allegedly intentionally piles debt onto partner countries then uses it for political gain.

Beijing, for its part, has always denied such claims, saying it is open to partnering with Europe on infrastructure projects in third countries.

Despite von der Leyen’s rhetoric, Mamer denied that Global Gateway was aimed at China.

“Global Gateway is the EU’s offer to develop intelligent, useful infrastructure and make other investments in partner countries,” he told a press conference on Wednesday. “That doesn’t mean that it’s directed against anybody else.”

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged ceasefires in the Middle East and Ukraine. Photo: Reuters
Von der Leyen opened the forum with a stinging rebuke of “a heinous terror attack by Hamas on Israel” and Russia’s “imperial war of aggression against its smaller democratic neighbour, Ukraine”.
However, other speakers advocated immediate ceasefires in both warzones, including Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s prime minister.

A tearful Hasina recalled visiting Brussels in 1975 when her father – then prime minister – and 17 other family members were killed in a military coup.

“I know this sorrow and pain to be a refugee. I know what war can cause … please stop this war,” said the leader.

China needs to take EU more seriously, bloc’s foreign policy chief says

“I call on all leaders, I don’t want to blame anyone, I just want to end war … the money you spend on arms races, why don’t you spend it on children?”

The forum was marked by a flurry of deal signings, as the EU looked to meet a €300 billion funding target for Global Gateway by 2027.

The EU, Bangladesh and the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed deals worth €400 million euros for renewable energy projects in the South Asian country.

The EIB signed a memorandum of understanding with the Vietnamese government to provide a €500 million credit facility for multiple green transition projects, while the EU clinched agreements with Mauritania and Namibia that will secure European access to green hydrogen and critical raw mineral stocks.

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