Global Gateway Forum: A closed-door gathering which fundamentally changes the EU's development landscape
This week’s Global Gateway Forum, an invitation-only, closed-door gathering, was a PR event dominated by politicians and business leaders, rather than a meaningful space to consider the role of the Global Gateway in sustainable development. Civil society and trade union voices were conspicuously absent.
The event, during which the European Commission promoted its controversial strategy to use development funds to attract private investment in infrastructure in the Global South, also marked a fundamental change to the space for civil society to interact with the European institutions on their development agenda. In the past, events like the annual European Development Days (EDDs) allowed for a more broad and open dialogue.
Alexandra Gerasimčiková, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Counter Balance, said:
"The Global Gateway Forum reflected the private sector-driven aid framework which the Global Gateway epitomises. Only a selected group of actors were invited to attend the event instead of open, public participation and input from civil society organisations. As a result, the propping up of European capital and the financial sector – instead of prioritising real development results and social investments – is at the centre of the Global Gateway.”
The Global Gateway strategy was set up as a European derisking agenda to compete with Chinese global infrastructure investments through its Belt and Road initiative. This means that development funds are used to guarantee maximum profits for corporations and asset managers from social infrastructure and public goods.
The Global Gateway Business Advisory Group, containing 60 of the largest companies in Europe – including polluting giants like TotalEnergies, ENEL, Volvo and Bayer – opens the door even wider to corporate lobby influence. This list does not include any public or private enterprises from recipient countries.
Alexandra Gerasimčiková added: “To have relevance and credibility as a development actor, the EU must finance access to affordable and ecological public goods and services, and support local small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as the productive sector aligned with recipient countries’ national development agenda."
Jean Saldanha, Director of the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) said: “The infrastructure focus of the Global Gateway initiative cannot be seen as independent from the EU's green transition ambition. While there were some warnings against the Global Gateway turning into colonialism 2.0, the lack of any clear commitments to invest in value creation in countries rich in resources essential for this transition - a repeated call of many partner countries’ leaders speaking at the forum - illustrates a 'business as usual' approach. This equates to more inequality and more exploitation of impacted communities, rather than the win-win that is central to the 'superior' offer of the Global Gateway.”
- Alexandra Gerasimčiková at alexandra.gerasimc[email protected] or by telephone on +32 (0)2 893 08 61.
- Julia Ravenscroft at [email protected] or +44 7958 184 695.
Notes to Editors
- Counter Balance and Eurodad published the report The Emperor’s New Clothes: What’s new about the EU’s Global Gateway? on the EU Global Gateway in September 2022.
- The European Commission claims that the Global Gateway is a values-based alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Yet, the institutions tasked with achieving Global Gateway objectives such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) have consistently funded projects responsible for environmental and human rights violations – such as forcibly displacing local communities, sparking violent suppression of protests and causing widespread environmental damage. For this reason, civil society organisations have called on the EIB’s development branch, the EIB Global, to come up with a clear human rights strategy, and to improve the quality of its development projects as well as accountability mechanisms.
- The Rogun dam in Tajikistan is just one problematic project example which the European Commission wants to push forward with Global Gateway support. Around 42,000 people living near the dam site have already been forcibly resettled – many losing their land, work and access to essential services. Webuild, the company represented in the Global Gateway Business Advisory Group and hired to complete the currently unfinished dam, is led by Pietro Salini, who was previously a general contractor for the MOSE project. A corruption scandal around MOSE resulted in the arrests of 35 people, including the former mayor of Venice. Apart from the Rogun dam, Webuild is also set to build a new Genoa breakwater dam with EU recovery funds, a project heavily criticised by civil society organisations. The Rogun dam’s overblown and unclear costs – which the World Bank estimates to be half of Tajikistan’s GDP – and resulting debt burden cast doubt on the project’s development potential.