Germany finds compromise on China’s Hamburg station deal

BERLIN – The German government agreed on a compromise on Wednesday that would allow a Chinese shipping group to reduce its stake in the container terminal operator at the port of Hamburg over concerns the deal could pose security risks. nation.

In a statement from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Cabinet has agreed to allow COSCO Shipping to buy only a stake of less than 25% – instead of 35% as previously planned – in Germany, the Economy Ministry said in a statement by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Tollerort terminal of the port logistics company Hamburg HHLA, the Economy Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said the decision was made to halt COSCO’s “strategic investment” in the station and “reduce the acquisition to a purely financial investment”.

“The reason for the ban is in part the existence of a threat to public order and safety,” the ministry said.

The German ministry said the 25% threshold – higher than an investor in a company can make decisions in Germany – could not be exceeded in the future without a new investment review process, the German ministry said. . It added that COSCO is prohibited from granting itself a contractual veto over strategic business or personnel decisions.

The question of whether to allow Chinese participation in the port has created a political dispute as Germany grapples with the consequences of its reliance, until recently, on natural gas. of Russia.

Lawmakers from the Greens and Liberal Democrats, which formed a governing coalition last year with Scholz’s Social Democrats, publicly criticized the original proposal last week. Six German government ministries initially rejected it on the grounds that COSCO, already a large customer, could get too much leverage.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reacted to the latest developments in a regularly scheduled press conference.

“Cooperation is mutually beneficial,” Wang said in Beijing. “We hope relevant parties will see the practical cooperation between China and Germany rationally and stop unwarranted hype.”

Scholz, who is due to visit China early next month with a delegation of German business representatives, has supported COSCO’s entry into a HHLA agreement, German media reported.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Scholz told reporters that “the Prime Minister believes that participation as it has now been approved is not a strategic dependency.”

Scholz “has made it very clear that this is not about selling parts of the port of Hamburg, but just about participating in a single terminal,” added Christiane Hoffmann.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin should avoid repeating with China the mistakes it made with Russia. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also warned against being too dependent on China.

“We have to learn our lesson and learn the lesson that means we have to reduce our unilateral dependence wherever possible,” Steinmeier told ARD broadcaster during a visit to Ukraine on Tuesday. that applies to China in particular.

German intelligence agencies said earlier this month that Chinese finances could become a risk for Germany, especially given the close economic and scientific ties between the two countries.

At a hearing with lawmakers, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence service, Thomas Haldenwang, compared the current geopolitical turmoil from the war in Ukraine, saying that “Russia is a storm.” storm, China is climate change”.

COSCO also holds stakes in several other European ports, including the main Greek port of Piraeus.

Hamburg port logistics company HHLA said it wanted to talk “timely” with COSCO about tweaking arrangements for the Chinese company’s entry into the HHLA port, German news agency dpa reported.

“We welcome the fact that a solution has been found in practical, constructive negotiations with the German government,” said executive chairman Angela Titzrath, adding that they have until the end of the year to discuss, negotiate and sign an agreement with COSCO.


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