EU warned Germany about Hamburg port Chinese investment

AFP , Saturday 22 Oct 2022

The European Commission warned Germany months ago against Chinese investment in Hamburg's port, a source close to the matter told AFP on Saturday, as Chancellor Olaf Scholz faced criticism for reportedly backing the transaction.

Hamburg port, Germany
File Photo: Container ships are seen at the Terminal Burchardkai at the port in Hamburg, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. AP


The source confirmed information in a report by the Handelsblatt daily that the EU executive had in spring given Berlin a thumbs-down to Chinese shipping giant Cosco taking a 35-percent stake in the port under a deal agreed last year but not yet authorised.

The commission was worried that sensitive information about activity in the port -- the third busiest in Europe -- could be relayed to China's government.

Its recommendation was non-binding, with Germany having the final say on the deal.

German broadcasters NDR and WDR on Thursday reported that Scholz's office is planning to approve the deal despite opposition from six different ministries in Germany's coalition government.

According to the report by NDR and WDR, the deal would effectively be approved automatically if the government does not intervene by the end of this month.

Scholz, who was mayor of Hamburg between 2011 and 2018 before becoming vice chancellor and then chancellor, announced after attending an EU summit on Friday that he would visit China in November.

He said that "nothing is decided" about the Chinese investment, but noted there were Chinese stakes in other European ports.

The EU's stance against China, however, has hardened since those other stakes were made.

At the EU summit, leaders agreed they did not seek confrontation with China, wanting its cooperation on climate change and other issues.

But they also expressed discomfort at China's increasing assertiveness in many areas, including in trade, and its bond with Russia, which is waging war in Ukraine.

European Council President Charles Michel said after Friday's summit that there must be "more reciprocity and rebalancing in particular in the economic relations between China and the EU".

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday gathered support from his Communist Party that will enable him to sail through to a third term. Xi previously abolished the presidential two-term limit, paving the way for him to rule indefinitely.

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