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22nd Aug 2018

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"16+1" cooperation injects new vigour into China-EU cooperation

  • 16+1 cooperation was initiated by China in 2012 and now includes 11 EU member states and 5 Balkan countries. (Photo: MTI)

On 27 November 2017, the Sixth Summit of China and Central and Eastern European Countries was held in Budapest.

The cooperation between China and the 16 central and eastern European (16+1) countries has grown from strength to strength and increasingly matured over the past five years, as marked by a number of early harvests in the areas of trade, investment, infrastructure, finance, education, tourism and people-to-people exchanges.

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"16+1" cooperation has delivered benefits to its members, and has become a highlight of China-Europe cooperation as a whole.

Since I arrived in Brussels, and in fact even before that, I have heard some concerns expressed about the 16+1 cooperation.

Some have called it "divide and rule" tactics by China against the EU. However, such concerns and misunderstandings are totally unfounded if one looks at why China chose to start the 16+1 cooperation in the first place and how China has gone about it ever since.

Supporting European integration

China is always a supporter of European integration. This position is clear-cut and consistent. To divide the EU is not in China's interests. As Chinese President Xi Jinping put it, the 16+1 cooperation is an important part of and useful complement to the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, and can play a role in promoting China-EU partnerships for peace, growth, reform and civilisation.

The 16+1 cooperation is transparent, open and inclusive. China welcomes the EU and other relevant parties to get actively involved. The EU has been invited to many activities under the "16+1" framework as an observer.

China respects EU laws and regulations; EU member states participating in 16+1 cooperation also comply with EU laws and policies.

A firm supporter of the European integration process, China wants to see a united EU, a prosperous Europe, and a stable euro. And China's support is backed by concrete actions.

Connecting Asia and Europe

16+1 cooperation and China-Europe cooperation are interconnected.

China-Europe cooperation provides a solid foundation for 16+1 cooperation. As China and Europe work together to synergise the Belt and Road Initiative and the Investment Plan for Europe as well as development strategies of European countries, CEE countries will play a more prominent role as a hub that connects Asia and Europe.

Meanwhile, 16+1 cooperation could serve as a new engine of China-Europe cooperation. In promoting 16+1 cooperation, we are exploring new areas, approaches and practices in light of the industrial features and development needs of CEE countries. In doing so, China-Europe cooperation has been significantly broadened and deepened.

Without 16+1 cooperation, China-Europe relations would not have been so productive and successful.

Tangible outcomes

16+1 cooperation is conducted on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. It benefits CEE countries by diversifying and complementing their existing trade routes and sources of investment and financing. It benefits all its members by promoting economic development and livelihoods through concrete projects.

The past years have seen tangible outcomes of 16+1 cooperation - the Budapest-Belgrade railway, the 16+1 financial holding company, the 16+1 inter-bank consortium, to name just a few.

The 16+1 cooperation also benefits the EU and Europe as a whole as faster development in CEE countries contributes to more balanced development across Europe and European integration. I am confident that the Budapest Summit will produce even more fruitful results.

Ultimately, the 16+1" cooperation is a creative framework which enables countries in different regions and with different social systems to work together. It goes hand-in-hand with China-Europe cooperation and constantly injects new vigour into such cooperation.

With that, China, CEE countries and the EU will become better off together.

H.E. Ambassador Zhang Ming is head of the Chinese Mission to the EU.

Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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