China’s investments in the Baltic countries are so far insignificant, but the Chinese have their eyes on large strategic infrastructure projects, developments that are simultaneously tempting and worrying to the Baltics.
During a dinner at a start-up conference in Estonia’s capital Tallinn three years ago, Peter Vesterbacka, one of the men who took the Angry Birds game to the masses, tapped the shoulder of Marina Kaljurand, Estonia’s then-Foreign Affairs Minister. “We just decided to build a tunnel,” he said.
Fast forward to August 2019, and Vesterbacka has allegedly secured a provisional 15 billion euros and agreed with three construction companies to build what may become the world’s longest undersea railway tunnel connecting Tallinn and Helsinki, Finland’s capital.
The trick? The money and the builders come from China
So far, Chinese investment in the Baltic countries has been negligible. However, this project, along with a few other strategic infrastructure developments eyed by the Chinese, has the potential to become the largest China-related investment in northern Europe. And this may turn out to be a deal-breaker, especially as the European Union (EU) has started screening foreign direct investment to safeguard Europe’s security and strategic interests.