The CEEC-China 16+1 meeting and how it put world media spotlight back on Bulgaria

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Photo: BGNES

The four-day visit to Bulgaria by the Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang, which ended on Sunday, is in the focus of attention of the national media today, highlighting PM Borissov’s idea for the future partnership centre between the 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and China to be headed by Lilyana Pavlova, until a week ago Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The Chinese visit is also given extensive coverage by the world media, placing Bulgaria in the limelight of attention after the end of the country’s rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

The visit is being given so much attention because it is the first visit to Bulgaria by the Chinese premier after the formation of the new cabinet in Beijing, but also because it is the first stopover in his European tour. Moreover the visit, and the 7th CEEC-China 16+1 Summit that accompanied it, came at a time of strained relations between the EU and USA in the economic sphere. And at this time of EU-USA tensions, discussions at the 16+1 forum revolved around the promotion of China’s industrial, economic, financial and other kinds of business relations with some of the EU members – the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Rightly or wrongly, these coincidences gave rise to certain apprehensions. This is the reason why the Chinese and the Bulgarian premier deemed it necessary to state, categorically, that 16+1 is not targeted at anyone in the world, nor will it harm relations with the EU. To this Li Keqiang added, in an endeavour to mollify the countries with reservations inside the EU itself, that China was not out to divide the EU with these 16+1 meetings with countries in Central and Eastern Europe. After his one-on-one meeting with Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov, Li Keqiang specified that China regarded the EU as a powerful force in global prosperity, and that it would abide by the market rules and laws of the European Union. PM Borissov’s statement fell in line with these words as he pointed out that Bulgaria was in a position to promote industrial, economic, financial and other kinds of business relations with China on a pragmatic basis, and in accordance with European rules.

The idea that the initiative between China and the Central and East European countries is not divisive was also supported by the PM of Croatia Andrej Plenkovic who gave, as a concrete example, a Croatian infrastructure project which is being implemented by a Chinese company and which is helping connectivity in the region. As corroboration of the sincerity of these statements, the 7th CEEC-China 16+1 meeting decided to set up a Global Partnership Centre of CEECs and China, within the framework of which the countries from the initiative will be able to explore how best their cooperation can comply with the EU rules.

For Bulgaria, the visit by the Chinese premier has great value in terms of bilateral relations. Sofia is availing itself of this opportunity to pursue its expectations of more effective and rational relations with China in energy and transport infrastructure projects, but also in industry, high-tech, agriculture and tourism. As a token of appreciation of these expectations, the Chinese premier undertook a personal commitment to help bring the Belene nuclear power plant project to a successful completion.

English version: Milena Daynova


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