7th China-CEEC Summit Opens in Sofia

Sofia, July 7 (BTA) - The Seventh Summit of Heads of Government of Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) and China opened in Sofia on Saturday. Participating were the leaders of Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Latvia, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Montenegro, the Czech Republic and China. Lithuania was represented by its finance minister and Poland by its education minister.

In his opening remarks, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that Saturday's meeting aims to strengthen Europe and allows less developed EU member countries to catch up. "With extra funding from China we can complete joint connectivity projects which are currently not on the EU agenda," said Borissov. Also, he noted the huge potential for development of the Western Balkans.

Also, Borissov noted that the exchange and cooperation between CEE countries and China are more efficient and dynamic within the 16+1 initiative. Another key characteristic of the platform is that it is becoming an important positive element of relations between China, Europe and the European Union, he said.

In his remarks, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reiterated that the 16+1 forum does not aim to divide Europe but to create new possibilities for development. "The process of cooperation should be transparent, in open bidding procedures with fair terms, so that China can participate in the projects that are implemented in the region," said Li.

He added that relations between the CEE countries and China have made huge progress even in the conditions of the slow recovery of the global economy.

The Chinese Premier said the CEEC-China cooperation is in the interest of all countries in the world and Europe. "This initiative will help the EU in achieving its aims for prosperityand integration of the whole of Europe. It is in the interest of China too as we believe in multinationalism. Europe is important to peace and development. With a stronger EU the otherworld powers will seek a stronger synergy in a more balanced
world and will promote democracy in international relations, as well as free trade and economy," Li said.

He added that China would like to encourage new channels for collective funding of projects under the 16+1 initiative.

The Chinese Premier said that the CEEC-China cooperation will be expanding against the background of the globalization of the economy. "Opening of China's market to investors and goods that satisfy the needs of Chinese consumers is key. We'll decrease trade tariffs and we'll take advantage of the conditions for economic growth." He urged for more support of free trade to prevent a slowdown of the global economy.

Li said that cooperation within the 16+1 initiative should be an open platform and that it should be expanded to include other EU member countries and financial institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

It transpired that within the 16+1 initiative a centre will be set up to provide information to businesses on how cooperation with China should meet EU rules as well as how to raise assistance from international financial institutions such as theEuropean Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Chinese Premier Li asked his Bulgarian counterpart Borissov to commit himself to the establishment of the centre, while China will sponsor the new organization.

Prime Minister Borissov thanked Chinese Premier Li for his support and personal commitment to the 16+1 initiative and wished Li to continue to be its engine.

For his part, Chinese Premier Li thanked the Bulgarian government and Prime Minister Borissov for the preparations of the summit.

Speaking at a news briefing after the summit Li reiterated that the 16+1 format should stay open to more participants. "Cooperation should be based on the principle of transparency," he said. "We would like to welcome other international institutions which will work for this inclusive development," he said.

The Chinese Premier said that there is no conflict between the strategic interests of China and Europe. "We would like to see Europe united and thriving," he said, adding that relations will be organized according to EU rules and regulations.

Prime Minister Borissov commended Li's position and said this was a rare chance to give a boost to cooperation between Europe and China. Borissov said that the meetings within the 16+1 format will continue with the 4th China-CEEC local leaders' meeting in the Bulgarian town of Plovdiv in September.

Within the framework of the summit China and CEE countries signed 18 documents for cooperation, including a joint declaration for promoting e-trade cooperation and a cooperation programme in 2018-2020 of the China-CEEC Interbank Association.

The 16+1 format is an initiative by China aimed at intensifying and expanding cooperation with 11 EU countries and five Balkan countries. In the framework of the initiative, China has defined three potential priority areas for economic cooperation: infrastructure, high technologies, and green technologies.

Croatia will host the next China-CEEC summit in 2019.

Expected Outcomes for Bulgaria from Economic Cooperation with China

Borissov said that some the concrete and practical outcomes for Bulgaria from the cooperation with China would be the construction of motorways and rehabilitation of railways, which he said are projects included in the platform for connectivity between the EU and China. Borissov voiced a hope for other Bulgarian projects pertaining to regional connectivity, namely transport corridors 8, 4 and 10, and the "vertical" corridors with Romania, Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. "We have always strived for the Balkans to prosper equally," the Bulgarian Prime Minister said.

An agreement was also reached between Bulgaria and China for the export of Bulgarian dried tobacco leaves. Speaking at a joint event for statements after the signing of bilateral agreements as part of the 16+1 forum, Li said that using diplomatic channels, the Bulgarian Prime Minister had expressed on several occasions a wish whereby China import inputs for tobacco products. The Chinese Premier said that a new type of processing could be considered so as to meet the needs of the Bulgarian market.

Borissov too spoke about the topic, noting the problems the sector has with the purchase of tobacco from the tobacco growers, and finding markets for tobacco leaves.

Source: Sofia