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13th Dec 2019

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China vows more investment in eastern Europe at summit

  • Hungarian leader Orban welcoming his Chinese counterpart (Photo: Kormany.hu)

Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang said on Monday (27 November) that there should be more Chinese investment in central and eastern Europe.

He spoke at the China-Central and Eastern European Countries Economic and Trade Forum, a side-event to an annual summit in Budapest with China and sixteen central and eastern European countries – eleven of them EU members.

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Li also said China would increase food imports from the region.

"It is estimated that China will import products worth of $8 trillion (€6.7 trillion) from overseas in the next five years. … I hope central and eastern European countries will take a larger share of it," he said.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban said on Monday that the sixteen central and eastern European countries "always saw cooperation with China as a great opportunity"- instead of as a threat.

"We see the Chinese president's 'One Belt, One Road' initiative as the new form of globalisation which does not divide the world into teachers and students but is based on common respect and common advantages," said Orban.

The sixteen are EU members Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia; plus Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.

According to a diplomat speaking to the FT, the 'sub-regional' approach is being met with "a great deal of suspicion not only in Brussels but also in the capitals of many member states".

Chinese premier Li has said the summit was "not a geopolitical tool, but an incubator for pragmatic trans-regional cooperation".

The summit was an opportunity for one of China's leaders to showcase the One Belt, One Road initiative, also called the 'New Silk Road'.

According to Orban a key part of that trade route would be a train service between Budapest and Belgrade. The reconstruction of that railway, paid for by the Chinese, would be a "flagship project".

But the project had been proposed as far back as in 2013, and is under investigation by the European Commission. The EU executive wants to know whether the project violates EU rules on public tenders.

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