This website is dedicated to the promotion of the vision of a ‘European Silk Road’. A project idea that was developed by The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (wiiw). A related study was authored by Mario Holzner (coordinator), Philipp Heimberger and Artem Kochnev. The authors would like to thank wiiw board member Dionys Lehner for providing the idea of the European Silk Road.

The study concludes that Europe should respond to China’s New Silk Road initiative with a coherent infrastructure network and transport strategy of its own to leverage its economic potential. It should not rely on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to achieve this, but invest itself to ensure that it suits European priorities. Nevertheless, a ‘European Silk Road’ can be seen as complementary to China’s efforts. The study finds that the development of a European Silk Road could create 2-7 million new jobs and could increase GDP on average by 3.5% in Wider Europe over a ten-year period. Eastern Europe in particular needs an upgrading of its transport infrastructure. If this is achieved, the boost to incomes and living standards would be particularly significant in that part of the continent, as a ‘big push’ in transport infrastructure investment has the potential to industrialise broad sectors of the economy.

In a related wiiw Policy Note, a financing model for the European Silk Road is proposed. There, wiiw makes a proposal for the financing of infrastructure across the European continent with the help of a European Silk Road Trust (ESRT), backed by a European Sovereign Wealth Fund (ESWF). In the initial phase, the European Central Bank could reinvest a part of its assets in a way that would carry more risk, but also bring greater revenues, following the structure of the Norwegian oil fund. It is estimated that the ESWF would grow over the longer term to about 3% of the euro area’s GDP. This should be sufficient to guarantee the ESRT bonds – even if long-term interest rates move back into positive territory in the more distant future.

To compliment the economic feasibility analysis, another wiiw report aims to determine the environmental impact of the suggested northern core route – from Lyon to Moscow – by focussing on the net greenhouse-gas emissions, in CO2-eq. in passenger transport. The study uses a life cycle assessment (LCA) for the analysis of construction, maintenance, operation, and disposal of the HSR, to provide an estimate of how many tons of CO2-eq. can be saved over the span of 60 years. In generating a modal shift from road and air transport, the construction of an HSR line provides the potential for saving up to 10% of net CO2-eq. emissions in the EU27 for one year. Thus, the proposed high-speed line contributes to the current targets and goals of the European Union to reduce emissions and present smart, sustainable and inclusive economic solutions.

Another wiiw report estimates the CO2 emissions of freight transport on a hypothetical high-speed rail (HSR) line along the northern route, from Lyon to Warsaw, of a ‘European Silk Road’ (ESR). Using a methodology consisting of predictions regarding the freight-carrying capacity of the future HSR, and the commodity-level switchover, our results indicate that a best-case scenario, at a project lifecycle of 60 years, in which all trains run with 257 tonnes of load, provides for a reduction of 176.2 Mt of net CO2 emissions compared with current levels. These lifespan savings are comparable to a reduction of net emissions by close to 24% of the overall EU transport sector emissions (excluding air transport) of one year (as measured by the net emissions in 2018). The net negative emissions in the optimistic full-capacity scenario will compensate for the construction costs in 13 years. Thus, the potential for emission reduction along the northern route of the ESR is quite substantial, given that this is just one line, with limited capacity. This hints at the importance that bold missions, such as the construction of a pan-European HSR network, could have for the definition of a European Green Industrial Policy that is capable of supporting the fulfilment of the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.