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China reinforces with new investments its influence in Eastern Europe and the Balkans

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang promises a € 3 billion disbursement at a summit with 16 countries in the region

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China reinforces with new investments its influence in Eastern Europe and the Balkans

China narrows its ties with east. He does it in a checkbook. The Chinese prime minister, Li Keqiang, announced on Monday in Budapest a new investment of 3 billion euros in Eastern Europe and Balkans. A quantity that joins projects and loans that Beijing has sown in recent years, with which it seeks not only to become strong in a geo-strategic area of great importance, but also to influence EU. This ensures more friendly voices in a union with growing east-West tensions.

The Asian giant has already invested more than 6 billion in Central and Eastern Europe in projects and telecommunications companies, new energies, chemicals and machinery, according to Chinese Ministry of Commerce. And while Chinese disbursement in this area is still slow and very limited compared to what it does in Germany or UK, for example — its largest recipients in Europe — impact in regions thirsting for funds and investment promises is very large.

The east and Balkans have been a priority for China for years. And so he has reemphasized Chinese president in Hungarian capital, where he participates in a summit with leaders of so-called group of 16, formed by countries in Central Europe, east and Balkans.

The announcement is also framed within Chinese strategy of boosting so-called new Silk Road, network of transport, energy and communications infrastructures that has become jewel of China's foreign policy crown. A plan to reactivate old commercial corridor and open new commercial routes to west, which has as one of its key communications hub East Europe, where Beijing will finance a fast railway to connect Budapest with Belgrade and thus link Effectively — less than three hours from current eight — Central Europe with Greek port of Piraeus, where Chinese company Cosco has a concession for more than three decades.

Strategic interest

For China, countries of so-called Group of 16 — Hungary, Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia — which amounted to some 120 million of Inhabitants, has a double interest in strategic and economic terms.

"These investments are part of a larger strategy to enter European market, as 11 of se States are members of EU." "China intends to use m as a basis for expanding to or activities on continent," analyses Agnes Szunomar, an expert in eastern relations with Beijing of Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

The bet for this group also serves to develop ties with a number of countries that, although y do not have access to Community market, are not governed by strict regulations of Brussels. Something that allows Beijing to finance and build roads, power plants and or key infrastructures in post-communist Rust belt, which did not develop for decades.

Throughout region, China is adding millionaire projects and decisive sectors. In Serbia, with which China has a particularly smooth relationship, it has disbursed some 1.6 billion euros buying key companies and financing projects such as construction of a rmal power plant. To Hungary, one of its friendliest partners in EU — and its largest receiver of investments in terms of GDP, after Finland and Portugal — has pledged 1.2 billion. To Czech Republic 2.5 billion.

These multi-million dollar investment promises pose new challenges for European cohesion. "They are beginning to change foreign policy calculations of Member States and diminish EU's ability to speak with one voice in important foreign policy areas, for example, on sourn China Sea," point Mikko Huotari and Thilo Hanemann in a report from Mercator Institute for studies of China, a ' think tank ' that analyses relations with Asian giant and Europe.

To China, having checkbook full and strewn with promises — not always effective, often slow — has served to strengn its ties with eastern countries and through m influence Brussels negotiating tables. Greece — A major investment focus — this summer blocked a European declaration condemning Chinese repression against dissident activists. In March Hungary — increasingly eurosceptic and close to China, Russia, and Turkey — did same.

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