ECFR Expert Pushes EU To Focus More On Middle Corridor

(MENAFN- Trend News Agency) BAKU, Azerbaijan, April 13. In an articletitled Risk and Reward: Why the EU Should Build the Middle CorridorTrade Route, European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) scholarAlberto Rizzi urged the EU to push ahead with the construction ofthe Middle Corridor as a project with long-term benefits, Trend reports.

"The EU intends to minimize its dependence on cargo transitthrough Russia by leading the development of a shorter alternativeroute across Central Asia called the Trans-Caspian InternationalTransport Route (TITR), also known as the Middle Corridor," theauthor notes.

He notes that, according to World Bank projections, with majorupgrades to port and railroad facilities, freight transportationalong the TITR may exceed 11 million tons per year by 2030.

"To ensure that this will happen, the EU has already contributed10 billion euros as part of its Global Gateway plan and isconsidering expanding its role in the development of the MiddleCorridor, evaluating the risks and rewards," Rizzi noted.

Among the risks, he mentioned the desire of the RussianFederation to link TITR with the North-South transport project andother projects with Central Asian (CA) countries.

Also, in his opinion, the Middle Corridor could contribute toChina's growing influence in the region.

"Despite these hurdles, the benefits to the EU from developingthe Middle Corridor exceed the risks, owing to the potential tostrengthen Europe's links with Central Asia. The region is alreadyattracting Chinese and European interest because of its strategiclocation between Europe and East Asia, massive resource endowments(particularly gas and oil), and renewable energy potential. Thus,powers that can connect China and Europe via this region can gainsubstantial geoeconomic dominance. Europeans can be confident thatif they don't support the project, someone else will," AlbertoRizzi emphasized.

He believes the former Soviet republics are attempting todiversify their economies and reach out to new commercial partners,a desire that has grown stronger since the war in Ukraine.

"Russia now relies on these republics as both customers andtransit countries for gas that it cannot sell on the Europeanmarket. Although Moscow's sale of inexpensive energy to CentralAsian countries is currently an offer they cannot reject, Moscow'semphasis only on fossil fuels ensures that this Russian influencewill not persist beyond the short term," the European expertbelieves.

He also suggests that Central Asian (CA) countries fearexcessive credit dependence on China, which has only partiallymaterialized the promised benefits of the Belt and Roadinitiative.

"The development of the Middle Corridor will allow CAgovernments to prepare their economies for the future by reducingdependence on fossil fuels as well as on Russia and China," theanalyst argues.

He thinks the EU should capitalize on Central Asia's eagernessto develop the Middle Corridor.

"The Middle Corridor's continued development will let Europeansrecognize another inconvenient truth: commerce with China will notdisappear or decrease any time soon. Goods will continue to gooverland between Europe and China, with the Middle Corridorensuring that some do not go through Russia. There is little chanceof economic interaction between Russia and Europe returning toprewar levels. The creation of a route that bypasses Russia willhelp the structural goals of the EU much more than reducing alltrade with China," the European expert shares his views.

Meanwhile, the TITR celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2024,and it has been steadily developing over the last five years.

It's worth noting that 2.76 million tons of freight flowed via theMiddle Corridor in 2023 (86 percent greater than in 2022), with 4.2million tons planned for 2024.

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