Infrastructure sector makes expertise available as EU seeks €300bn global infrastructure pipeline. So, what help does the EU need and what projects are likely to be sought?
Launching the EU Global Gateway, president Ursula von der Leyen stressed that industry expertise will be sought to create a credible pipeline of investment-worthy projects around the world. What goes into this pipeline will be critical to the success of the €300bn investment programme.
Industry offers expertise
Fortunately, this is something the infrastructure sector is positive about making happen.
Dr Nelson Ogunshakin, the chief executive of international engineering association FIDIC, commented: “FIDIC welcome the bold decision taken by the EU President on the Global Gateway initiative. To invest €300bn in infrastructure in just five years, the EU president is absolutely right that industry needs to work in collaboration to get a large number of good quality and bankable projects ‘investment-ready’ quickly. FIDIC and our member’s firms are keen to work with the EU to secure such outcome.”
FIDIC represents an industry of more than one million engineers and 40,000 companies worldwide and Dr Ogunshakin has offered to make that global expertise available.
“Appropriately executed project preparation with embedded FIDIC best practice on procurement and sustainability design can reduce risk, improve outcomes and speed up delivery and we hope to make our industry’s expertise available to the Global Gateway as it seeks to act quickly and transparently around the world.”
So as industry offers to help, what is kind of projects should we expect to see emerge?
As global internet traffic is expected to grow more than six-fold by 2030, broadband connectivity will become a necessity in the transition toward a data-driven economy and society.
The EU Global Gateway will therefore work with partner countries on projects to deploy digital networks and infrastructures including submarine and terrestrial fibre-optic cables, space-based secure communication systems and cloud and data infrastructure.
There will be a strong focus on underserved regions, countries and populations – to help tackle the global digital divide. Additionally, investments will be made to strengthen secure and trusted digital connections within those regions and countries, and between Europe and the world.
Most of these projects will likely be agreed through digital economy packages offered to partner countries and regions. These will combine infrastructure investment with country-level assistance designed to ensure the protection of personal data, cybersecurity, the right to privacy, trustworthy AI, as well as fair and open digital markets.
Climate and energy
Energy is both a prerequisite for economic development around the world, and the source of more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The EU Global Gateway programme will therefore focus heavily on decarbonising energy and tackling the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss, which disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.
It plans to invest in regional energy interconnectivity, something that can help to drive affordability and sustainability of energy systems. It will also support regional and national energy transitions with investment in joint projects such as offshore wind farms in coastal regions, energy efficiency measures, and solar and wind energy on land.
The Global Gateway will also invest in renewable hydrogen production and open up competitive markets to enable hydrogen to be traded internationally and within the EU without export restrictions. This, it is hoped, will spur the expansion of a sector that is still in its formative stages but has great potential for transportable green energy.
Transport networks are a critical enabler of prosperous economies and societies and they represent one of the key challenges for international development and growing trade.
Global Gateway will promote worldwide infrastructure investments in rail, road, ports and airports – as well as logistic capabilities and border-crossing points that ease movement. The aim is to do this in a way that establishes sustainable, smart, resilient, inclusive, and safe transport networks across all modes of transport.
One model for this will build upon continent-scale transport plans. This has seen the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) expand to the Western Balkans, Turkey, and the Eastern Partnership region, and work is underway to adopt the Trans-Mediterranean Transport Network (TMN-T) in the EU’s southern neighbourhood.
Taking the same approach to connecting communities with adjacent strategic corridors in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia will happen alongside efforts to foster convergence with European or international technical, social, environmental and competition standards.
Additionally, investments will be directed towards enhancing the recharging and refuelling infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles and foster the supply of renewable and low-carbon fuels like green hydrogen.