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22nd Sep 2019

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Hungary signs up to Silk Road project

Hungary on Saturday (6 June) became the first EU country to sign up to China's flagship trade initiative, which aims to revitalise the historic silk route that for centuries connected Europe and the Far East.

The Chinese project is “one of the most significant concepts in world trade”, said Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto, during a visit to Budapest by his Chinese colleague Wang Yi.

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  • Train headed for Budapest at Belgrade station in 2010: China is financing a highspeed railway link (Photo: Phil Richards)

The two foreign ministers signed an accord on Saturday cementing Hungary's participation in the trade network, which goes by several names: the Belt and Road initiative; One Belt, One Road; and New Silk Road.

Szijjarto said that China-Hungary co-operation “has never been as good or as effective as now”. Wang called Hungary an “important partner”, the AP reports.

The Chinese initiative was proposed by the country's president Xi Jinping in 2013. It cites as its goals “promoting policy co-ordination, facilitating connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonds”, wrote Chinese ambassador to the EU Yang Yanyi.

It includes trade liberalisation, regional development, financial co-operation, and cultural exchange programmes.

To increase trade, China wants to improve transport possibilities from China through central and west Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, by investing in infrastructure.

It has already started financing a high speed railway between Budapest and the Serbian capital Belgrade.

It is also setting up a development bank which is aimed at funding projects in the "belt".

Just over two months ago, Hungary signed up as a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, as have many other European countries.

Germany, France, and the UK are among EU states which have joined the Chinese-led investment bank, despite calls by the United States not to do so.

At an event in Brussels last week, China's ambassador Yang Yanyi told an audience the Chinese silk road initiative can coexist with EU projects, like the soon-to-be up-and-running European investment fund.

“Our respective agenda’s complement and reinforce each other”, said Yang, adding that the two initiatives will create a “win-win” situation which will include the possibility to “trade new products, new services, new sectors, and [will create] new job opportunities”.

Stakeholder

China to revive ancient Silk Road

The Chinese "Belt and Road" initiative aims to connect Asia, Europe and African countries. It covers more than 60 countries along the ancient Silk Road with a population of 4.4 billion and US$21 trillion GDP.

UK and Belgium in China visa pact

UK visa applications centres in China are set to help process border-free Schengen visas to Chinese tourists in a scheme hatched with Belgian authorities.

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