Ports of Denmark call on Scholz in Altinget Transport
This post was published in Altinget Transport on 28/10/2022 and can be read here.
It was not good when Greece leased the port of Piraeus, one of Europe's most important container ports, to the Chinese in 2009.
The Greeks were on their knees financially and the then German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, made it clear that EU aid was conditional on sales and savings. So the Greek government seized the opportunity and leased the port to China, which was keen on the deal.
Today, 13 years later, the Chinese shipping company Cosco has a majority stake in the Greek port. Definitely not reassuring. Neither Greece nor we in Denmark share security interests with China. Neither does Germany.
Nevertheless, the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is apparently turning a deaf ear to numerous warnings against selling substantial parts of the important German port of Hamburg to Cosco, the same state-owned Chinese shipping company that today owns the majority stake in Athens' major port of Piraeus.
At the risk of sounding disingenuous, we point out that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder clearly underestimated Russia's ability and willingness to use gas supplies as a political weapon. We now face the consequences of this in the form of a looming energy crisis across Western Europe.
One thing is to be naive, we all have been in relation to Russia. Another is not to learn from that mistake. Germany must have learned by now that dependence on great powers with which we do not share interests is patently dangerous. And creates instability in vital supplies.
The German president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, warns clearly against China and urges caution in relation to "dependence" on the country.
German domestic intelligence chief Thomas Haldenvang told Bild unequivocally recently that China is far more dangerous than Putin: "Russia is the storm. China is the climate change."
Then you have the proportions.
Protection of critical national infrastructure
We cannot decide what the Germans should do. But as representatives of Danish commercial ports, we would like to warn clearly against selling the vital security of supply that ports represent as critical national infrastructure to countries with which we do not share security interests.
Security of supply in both energy and food is, if not overlooked, curiously low on the political agenda. Strange, partly because it concerns us all, and partly because, in addition to an election campaign, we are also in the middle of an energy crisis, which is precisely about security of supply.
A country's control over how and by whom energy and food are produced and supplied is vital for the safety and security of the country and its citizens. Ports play a key role in providing the necessary infrastructure for both energy and food. Around 75 percent of Denmark's foreign trade passes through a Danish port.
Safeguarding our national critical infrastructure is an essential political task, just as ensuring security of supply is a national political task in every way. This includes helping our good neighbours in every possible way to take the safest decisions.