Plenković and Chinese Counterpart Discuss Potential Areas of Cooperation in Budapest

Lauren Simmonds

Andrej Plenković met with his Chinese counterpart in Budapest, Hungary, where closer ties and further cooperation between China and Croatia were among the topics of discussion.

As Index writes on the 27th of November, 2017, cooperation in tourism, the use of Croatian ports for Chinese exports and investment in infrastructure were among the key topics of the meeting of the Croatian and Chinese Prime Ministers Andrej Plenković and Li Keqianga in the Hungarian capital of Budapest during the sixth summit of 16 countries of central and eastern Europe (CEEC) and China. Plenković assured that deeper co-operation between these countries and China shouldn’t be of any concern to Brussels.

Plenković reminded journalists that Croatia has seen a huge increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting, this year alone saw a huge 60 percent increase compared to last year, and next year an even more impressive 100 percent increase compared to 2016 is hoped for, adding that it was precisely because of that subject that the long-standing Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli had joined him in Budapest.

He added that Croatia should set up a 16 + 1 meeting of tourism ministers in the coming spring – meaning the CEEC countries and China.

The Republic of Croatia is joined in the CEEC Initiative by Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Serbia.

“We’re also talking about infrastructure and investments, especially when it comes to naval infrastructure. Croatia is interested in the fact that Rijeka, Split, Zadar and Ploče will be the European ports that will see Chinese exports gravitate to them, as well as investments in river infrastructure that we’re continually working on,” the prime minister stated during this, the second meeting with his Chinese counterpart after the one that took place in the Latvian capital of Riga last year at the 5th summit of the very same initiative.

The PM added that Croatia’s priorities include further cooperation in the field of small and medium-sized enterprises.

The CEEC Initiative and China consider this deepening of cooperation to be an integral part of its megaproject called ”One belt” (Jedan pojas), one of the most ambitious projects in the world that would see the entire continental Euro-Asia area better connected by new highways, high-speed railways, ports and other modern infrastructure. Plenković doesn’t believe that this will be the cause any particular difficulties.

However, as the Financial Times writes, this initiative could at the same time cause provocation in the EU political seat of Brussels, Belgium, where some suspect that this project could threaten to undermine certain European Union rules.

“I don’t see this as being an issue that should cause difficulties from the Commission’s aspect,” Prime Minister Plenković reassured, noting that there have been representatives of the European Commission present at the summit in Budapest, so they’re fully informed of what has been being talked about and being done.

European diplomats fear that Beijing may take the initiative to undermine EU regulations. The actuator of the initiative was the ability for China to finance and build roads, railways, power plants and other infrastructure needed by some of the less economically developed countries of central and eastern Europe. The scope of action of this initiative, however, began to spill over into various other political and strategic spheres, provoking distrust among some Western European countries, according to the Financial Times.

For Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who hosted the sixth summit of the initiative, it is a “success story”. At the final press conference, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that China’s rapidly growing economy offers a wealth of opportunities for central and eastern Europe, and that this country has become a “dominant financial and technological force.”

He emphasised the great potential for central and eastern European countries that need technology and finance from the outside in order to fully realise their own potential. Reiterating the fact that China wants an advanced Europe. Further collaboration with China, whose economy grew 6.9 percent in the first three months of this year alone, can only be a strengthening factor. He added that trade between China and CEEC grew by 14 percent in 2017.

Bulgaria will host the 7th summit of the same initiative next year.


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