Balkan States Woo Chinese Investors at Summit| MENAFN.COM

Monday, 24 January 2022 08:49 GMT

Balkan States Woo Chinese Investors at Summit

(MENAFN- The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) The 4th annual Economic and Trade Forum between China and 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe started on Tuesday in China's eastern coastal city of Suzhou.

The initiative called "16 + 1" was initiated by China in 2012 as it seeks to improve trading and economic ties with 16 countries in Central and Eastern Europe – Albania Bosnia Bulgaria Croatia the Czech Republic Estonia Hungary Latvia Lithuania Macedonia Montenegro Poland Romania Serbia Slovakia and Slovenia.

After the first three summits in Warsaw Bucharest and in Belgrade last year the summit is being organized in China for the first time. Of the 16 European countries invited to attend 15 have sent prime ministers deputy prime ministers or presidents.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic is missing the summit for a second year in a row after missing the meeting in Belgrade in 2014 owing torocky political relations with host country Serbia. This year Milanovic is not going due to the ongoing negotiations of forming a new government in Croatia following the recent elections.

The chair of the Croatian parliament Josip Leko has gone instead of Milanovic “It’s important for Croatia to be present at the table where China is opening its cooperation with these [neighbouring] countries” Leko said on Tuesday.

“We... have expressed are opinion and presented some projects and ideas which we hope will be accepted in future” Leko said not specifying which projects Croatia had in mind.

Croatia's Chamber of Commerce is leading a delegation of 13 Croatian companies that have met Chinese partners on the sidelines of the summit.

Officials from the company Rijeka Port have declared in interest in the Chinese-planned project for a "Maritime Silk Road".

China has presented its plans for a new seagoing "Silk Road" recalling the historic trading route through Central Asia in which Central and Eastern European countries will form the western segment.

The project is designed to connect Chinese ports with those in Europe and the idea is that China will invest in building up these ports.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic present at the summit has meanwhile met Chinese companies on Serbia's behalf and discussed various projects and investments.

Vucic pointed out that a Chinese company the second largest producer in the steel industry is interested in buying the troubled Smederevo steelworks.

He stressed that the sale of Smederevo was essential for ensuring the company's long-term survival and the jobs of 5000 people.

“Our basic condition in all discussions is that 5000 people remain at work because we need to protect the workers and Smederevo" he said.

Speaking about the construction of the new rail link from Budapest in Hungary to Belgrade for which China's Exim Bank is providing cash he said the price had not yet been agreed.

Albania and Montenegro meanwhile on Wednesday signed an agreement with a private Chinese company Pacific to start building the "Blue Corridor" - a road that will connect the two countries alongside their shared Adriatic coast.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama is also attending the summit in China where he plans a bilateral meeting with the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.

At the sidelines of the summit Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has held meetings with Chinese companies aimed at presenting the potential for investment in Macedonia as well as concrete projects in the area of energy agriculture and tourism.

“We have offered several projects and exchanged ideas and suggestions and we will continue our contacts with the Chinese companies” Gruevski said.

The two most visible projects carried out in Macedonia so far with Chinese money are the construction of two stretches of highway that began last year.

Macedonia took out a loan worth 574 million euro from the Chinese Export-Import Bank to complete the highways.

Montenegro hopes to attract more Chinese companies to invest in road and railway infrastructure and energy - and would also like to see more Chinese tourists.

Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said boosting the capacity of the main Port of Bar the modernisation of the Bar-Belgrade-Budapest railway and building new hydropower plants would attract Chinese investment in the region.

In April Montenegro and the Chinese consortium CCCC-CRBC as partners started construction of the first Montenegrin highway which will connect the Adriatic coast via Belgrade and Budapest with Central and Western Europe.

Construction of the highway at a cost of about 800 million euro is mainly being financed by Chinese banks loans.

"Although we are at the gates of the Adriatic we are still relatively difficult to access and poorly connected. That's why we started construction of the highway our largest infrastructure project which is being realized with Chinese partners" Djukanovic said.

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