Croatia to host 16 + 1 initiative summit next year

Photo /Vijesti/2018/07 srpanj/6 srpanj/4.jpg

Next year Croatia will host a summit of the 16 + 1 initiative of countries of eastern and central Europe and China, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic confirmed on Friday after meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Sofia and added that a new page in relations between Croatia and China was opened at the last summit, held seven months ago.

"Today's main event is the agreement that in 2019, Croatia hosts this meeting of 16 central and eastern European countries and China. Croatian diplomats have been working on that since our last meeting in Budapest seven months ago. Prime Minister Li (Kequiang) and I have just confirmed that this will be stated in a joint declaration of all 17 countries to be adopted tomorrow," Plenkovic said after meeting with the Chinese prime minister.

The idea for a platform for cooperation between China and central and eastern European countries was born after their first economic-trade forum in 2011 in Budapest. Six years has passed since the first summit held in 2012 and subsequent summits were held in Bucharest, Belgrade, China, Riga and the last was held in Budapest in 2017. The Sofia summit is the seventh.

Plenkovic underscored that in the past seven months, since the summit in Budapest in November last year, cooperation between China and Croatia had been raised to a new level.

"It's a fact that since the last meeting we have agreed a meeting of 16 + 1 tourism ministers to be held in Dubrovnik in September. It is also a fact that the China Road and Bridge Corporation company has won the tender for the construction of the Peljesac Bridge. That has opened an absolutely new page in relations between China and Croatia. I believe that that fact and the next summit, when the prime minister of China will visit Croatia, will contribute to strengthening our cooperation," Plenkovic underscored.

Commenting on areas for possible further cooperation between Zagreb and Beijing, Plenkovic cited transport, mentioning the Zadar and Rijeka ports and cooperation in rail transport.

Now is the time, he believes, "to make a major step forward in modernising rail transport. We are ready for a partnership with China in that regard."

Plenkovic added that agreement had also been reached for the two countries to exchange various cultural events during 2019 in addition to the fact that the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) had opened an office in Shanghai and the Croatian Tourism Board (HTZ) would do so too. He added that Croatia had been recognised by Chinese tourists as an interesting new destination in Europe and that this year 200,000 Chinese tourists could visit the country.

"We are trying to agree direct flights between Zagreb and Beijing and Shanghai," he underscored.

The heads of the central and eastern European countries will try and expand and deepen their cooperation with China on Saturday.

Plenkovic is attending the Sofia summit along with the heads of government of 10 EU countries and five EU candidate countries and potential candidates.

Countries attending the summit include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and China.

The initiative's objective is to enhance cooperation between central and eastern European countries  and China in trade and investments, transport connectivity, finance, agriculture, science and technology, health, education and culture.

This year's summit in Bulgaria has identified four priority areas for economic cooperation: high technology, joint investments and industrial partnership, infrastructure, and agriculture and tourism.

In addition to the summit of heads of government, a business forum will be held in Sofia and it will be attended by representatives of more than 250 Chinese companies and 700 business people from central and eastern Europe. The forum, which is expected to draw more than 1,000 people, will be opened by Bulgaria's and China's prime ministers, Boyko Borisov and Li Kequiang respectively.

The 16 +1 initiative is part of China's One Belt, One Road mega project, a sort of modern-day Silk Road considered to be one of the most ambitious projects in the world.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Friday wold not reveal the name of the possible successor to Croatian National Bank (HNB) governor Boris Vujcic, saying only that the name of the candidate would be made public very soon.

Vujcic's term as HNB governor expired on Friday, and the public still does not know who could succeed him.

"The parliament will discuss and make a decision on the governor and his deputy and the three vice governors next week," Plenkovic told reporters in Sofia, where he was attending a summit of 16 Eastern and Central European countries and China.

Text: Hina