Maximilian Gebhardt explores the implications and challenges of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for European Union infrastructure investments in the latest issue brief from the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative: “Journey to the West: Chinese Opportunities in European Infrastructure Expansion.”

As the European Union aims to deepen integration, particularly in the field of infrastructure, “it is necessary to understand those goals from a Chinese context, especially in light of China’s [BRI] infrastructure project,” writes Gebhardt. He explains that the BRI, with its emphasis on the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), could provide incentives to promote geopolitical alignment, particularly in creating a security sphere in Central Asia. Before any realization of the grand dream of ‘One Belt, One Road,’ however, there are a number of issues that need to be taken into consideration–from the lack of a successful precedent for Chinese-built or Chinese-financed transport projects in the EU to date to the possibility of the EU supporting the BRI’s southern route which would go through Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan.

Given the “the economic reality . . . that China and Europe are already deeply interconnected” and more Chinese firms pushing to enter the EU transport and infrastructure procurement market, Gebhardt argues the European Union must develop a clear plan forward for meaningful and specific engagement with China’s BRI goals