The German government has reached an agreement on the controversial Port of Hamburg deal that allows a Chinese state-owned company to acquire a stake in one of the terminals, local media reported on Tuesday.
It comes just days after an investigation by NDR and WDR media revealed that German leader Olaf Scholz’s chancellery tried to push through the deal despite concerns from several ministries.
The issue is politically sensitive, with politicians from the Green Party and the Liberal FDP having raised concerns about China’s undue influence over critical infrastructure – particularly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put a damper on bare Europe’s energy dependence on autocratic third countries.
Now government ministries have reached an agreement: if approved, it would allow Chinese company Cosco to buy just 24.9% instead of 35% of the shipping company that runs the terminal, Hamburger Hafen und Logistik (HHLA), the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday. evening. As a minority shareholder, this would prevent Cosco from having a say in strategy.
Hans-Jörg Heims, spokesperson for HHLA, said his company was “engaged in constructive talks with the German government.”
The possibility of lowering Cosco’s stock had been discussed, Heims said. “We could consider it, but it is also at the CSPL [Cosco shipping]he said, adding that he expects a final compromise to be reached before the legal deadline for reviewing the investment expires on October 31.
But the compromise does not allay everyone’s concerns.
Svenja Hahn, a member of the European Parliament’s Renew Europe group and German Free Democrats, said the reported compromise showed German naivety in its dealings with China.
“All in all, it remains a serious strategic mistake to place parts of critical infrastructure in Chinese hands. After all, China has successively bought European ports, but rules out foreign ownership of ports in its own country,” she said. “It shows that cooperation with China is not a partnership of equals.”
Cosco already has stakes in Europe’s two largest ports in Rotterdam and Antwerp, while also controlling the port of Piraeus in Athens and is behind a project to expand an inland rail terminal in Duisburg, where the Ruhr and the Rhine meet and which is an important hub for overland freight from China.
This story has been updated.