SPOTLIGHT: On April 12, 2019, the eighth meeting of the heads of government of China and Central and Eastern European countries took place in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The cooperation of this group is also known as “China-CEEC Cooperation” or “16 + 1”.
According to EZHOUSHAN.NET, the cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, which was founded in Budapest in 2012, is an initiative of the Chinese government. The group is not an international organization.
China wants to expand business relationships with countries in Central and Eastern Europe and specifically look for investment opportunities. The European participants expect financial and infrastructural support in particular.
Participating States (18)
(since April 12, 2019)
China is represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Group’s Secretary General is the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister. The group has a permanent secretariat based in Beijing. The European participants are represented by national coordinators in each of the partner countries.
The China-CEEC Summit, also known as the 16 + 1 Summit, is a series of annual meetings between the Chinese Prime Minister and the heads of government of Central and Eastern European countries. Austria, Belarus, Switzerland, the European Union and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development took part in the summit in 2019 as observers.
The 16 + 1 met in Warsaw (2012), Bucharest (2013), Belgrade (2014), Suzhou (2015), Riga (2016), Budapest (2017), Sofia (2018) and Dubrovnik (2019). The next meeting will take place in China in 2020.
At the first meeting of the participating states on the initiative of the then Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Warsaw in 2012, Jiabao announced a credit line of 10 billion dollars and an investment fund of 500 million dollars to stimulate trade with Eastern Europe.
On April 12, 2019, the Greeks also joined the 16 + 1 initiative, which has become the 17 + 1 club. This means that there are 12 EU member states and 5 European countries in the Western Balkans in the group.
In 2019, the participating parties reaffirmed the principle of mutual respect (equality for all – large and small – countries), mutual benefit (win-win situation) and fair competition (fair environment for foreign companies and investments).
Unnoticed by the public and largely also by the media, China gained a foothold in Europe as early as 2012 in order to promote business and investment relations between China and the countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. From the Chinese point of view, the “16 + 1 cooperation” has proven to be a pragmatic and useful platform for promoting cooperation between China and the Central and Eastern European countries.
From the point of view of the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC), their self-confidence is strengthened if they, as small states with a few million inhabitants, are recognized as equal by an economic world power with 1.3 billion inhabitants and can deal with it on an equal footing.
Of course, the cooperation must also be seen as part of the Chinese “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI). The EU should not block itself here, but should use the possibilities of the BRI for cooperation. The “16 + 1” can be a useful addition to the strategic partnership between China and the EU.
But be careful: the Chinese are pragmatic and think strategically. While the EU is busy with roaming charges, the ban on cotton swabs and Brexit, China is also expanding its New Silk Road initiative in Europe. Would you like a little example?
- The Peljesac Bridge, which is designed to connect the city of Dubrovnik with the rest of the country, bypassing the Bosnian corridor. The construction was stopped in 2010 due to financial problems.
- After the project was re-tendered in 2017, the EU agreed to assume 85% of the construction costs. The tender was won by a Chinese company, partly because of the lowest price and the assurance that the project would be completed six months faster than necessary. Construction of the bridge began on July 30, 2018, and should (and will) be completed in 2022.
Conclusion: The EU pays and China is building. A rogue who thinks badly…