China Allegedly Planning to Invest Billions in Croatia

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The plans amount to 13 billion euros. How much will really be realised?

The UN Industrial Development Organization and the International Solar Energy Centre for Technology Promotion and Transfer (UNIDO-ISEC) will organise an investment forum focusing on Croatia in early November in Beijing. According to Siniša Malus, the communications manager of the China Southeast Europe Business Association (CSEBA), the UNIDO-ISEC has prepared for the forum 13 billion euro in various funds which have been earmarked for Croatia for two decades but have not yet been activated, reports Večernji List on October 16, 2018.

“This money has not been used, and now there is an opportunity to take advantage of the funds which we did not even know existed until recently;” explained Malus.

Among the potentially interesting projects is the establishment of the Chinese currency settlement centre, which would enable Zagreb and Croatia to become an important player in the international monetary market due to the rise in the influence of the Chinese currency.

The investment forum in Beijing will also consider co-operation in the construction of the Croatian national football stadium, which has already been discussed with the Croatian Football Federation. The Chinese are interested in installing solar panels on the stadium, and the interest has been increased after the success of Croatian football team at the World Cup in Russia.

Another potential project is filming of the first Chinese film in Croatia, and the agency will also encourage cooperation between production companies from Croatia and China. A Croatian film festival in China is also planned. Other potential investments include cooperation on technology related to the establishment of the 5G network, as well as the establishment of a permanent conference centre for sustainable development in the Zadar Business Zone.

Of course, it is impossible to foresee what will truly be implemented, but a particularly interesting part of the story is the Chinese willingness to invest in the Croatian shipbuilding, which was recently also discussed by Economy Minister Darko Horvat. According to unofficial information, talks on the possible entry of Chinese shipyards in Uljanik are very specific and, if an agreement is reached, the Chinese are ready to react very quickly. In the last decade, the Chinese shipyards have made a major step forward and have positioned themselves as the only serious competitor to Korean shipbuilding. If a framework agreement were to be signed in Beijing, some of the largest Chinese shipyards would allegedly be ready to enter Croatia, which would then be a guarantee of the future sustainability and possible growth of the Croatian shipbuilding industry.

By organizing this investment forum, China has again demonstrated its interest in investing in Croatia. The reason why these funds and projects were not previously mentioned can probably be found in political circumstances. It is known that Brussels is not particularly supportive of the cooperation between individual EU countries and China, which was evident in the selection of the Pelješac Bridge contractor.

Malus said that this investment forum is in some ways part of the Chinese megaproject “One Belt, One Road”. However, he added that in this case, unlike the Pelješac Bridge, there should be no EU suggestions that there should be no cooperation with the Chinese because this effort is being organised by a UN agency.

On behalf of the Croatian government, the forum is expected to be attended by Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Gabrijela Žalac.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Iva Boban Valečić).


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