EU draws up economic security plans, with mind on China


European Union flags fly outside the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. File

European Union flags fly outside the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. File
| Photo Credit: Reuters


The European Commission will set out plans on January 24 to bolster the European Union’s economic security through closer scrutiny of foreign investment and tighter controls on exports and outflows of technologies to rivals such as China.

The EU executive will present a broad document for debate along with a proposed new law that will require all EU countries to screen and possibly block foreign investments in the bloc to determine if they pose a security risk.

The Commission will outline its ideas on how better to coordinate export controls, particularly for products that could have military applications, and more tightly control who can participate in and access research in key technologies. It will also press for new measures that would limit leakage of sensitive technologies to destinations or countries “of concern”.

The plans will not name any country, but the EU has stressed working with “reliable partners” and “de-risking”, the bloc’s policy of reducing economic reliance on China, which dominates green tech and key mineral production and which the bloc regards with more suspicion due to its close ties to Russia.

‘A new geopolitical reality’

Putting into place more EU-wide measures will prove tricky because export and investment controls are competencies that EU members guard as their own. However, there is a growing appreciation that the bloc needs to combine its economic weight to compete with the likes of China and the United States.

“It’s a hot potato that could take some time to go forward. Implementation will be difficult…but there is a new geopolitical reality,” one EU diplomat said.

The EU executive launched a debate on the European Union’s economic security in June, saying the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, cyber and infrastructure attacks and increased geopolitical tensions had exposed multiple new risks.

Part of the strategy involves bolstering EU competitiveness, diversifying supply and export markets, boosting research and investment in advanced semiconductors, quantum computing and biotechnology and closer partnerships with allies.

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