Spotlight: Flagship rail project demonstrates cooperation with China good news for CEEC, EU

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-29 23:19:50|Editor: pengying
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by Xinhua writers Tian Dongdong, Shi Zhongyu

BUDAPEST, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- With an investment of 350 million U.S. dollars, the upgrade and reconstruction of the first segment of the Belgrade-Budapest railway started Tuesday, in a bid to revive its function as a road of friendship, cooperation and development.

Praised as a "flagship" project by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the railway is the first major scheme jointly implemented by China, a European Union (EU) member state (Hungary) and an EU aspirant (Serbia).

"The renewed line would ensure the fastest way for Chinese goods through central Europe to the West. The 16+1 forum not only serves CEE (Central and Eastern Europe's) interests but those of the whole of Europe," said Orban in a keynote speech to the seventh China-CEEC Economic and Trade Forum on Monday.

As he was delivering the speech, the Xiang Ou Express linking Budapest and China's south central city Changsha was pulling out of BILK Logistics Ltd, Hungary's largest railway hub.

Loaded with 41 containers of red wine, beer, cereals, milk powder and hardware accessories from Hungary and other European countries, the Express embarked on its first trip back to China, along with expectations of CEE countries (CEEC) to double or triple their exports to China.

"If you carry goods by ship from China to central Europe, normally it takes around 30 days. With the help of the Express, the time is 12 days. Besides, it is more controllable," Viktor Lippai, CEO of BILK, told Xinhua.

The express not only strengthens Hungary's prominent role as a regional logistics hub, but also facilitates the delivery of exports from western European countries to China, said Lippai.

For Lippai, China-CEE cooperation is win-win in nature. However, he said the EU is anxious regarding cooperation with China, but he believes that cooperation does not pose a hurdle to European integration. Instead, he, together with many experts from both China and the region, believes that China is an opportunity instead of a threat to the EU.

Faced with multiple challenges, Europe may eventually find a way out with China's efforts to build a community of shared future for mankind, Wan Zhe, chief economist with the International Cooperation Center of China's National Development and Reform Commission, told Xinhua.

China showed its firm support for European integration by forging ahead with 16+1 cooperation. Such cooperation is providing a strong buttress for a solidified EU, a prosperous Europe and a stable euro, said Wan.

Similarly, Liu Zuokui, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Xinhua that the global financial crisis and the European sovereign debt crisis have limited the EU's ability to support the development of CEE countries.

China's participation fills the gap and the development of China-CEEC relations could help bring about a rebound for the European economy, he said.

Agnes Szunomar, a researcher with the Institute for World Economics under the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, thinks that such a competitor as China is necessary for the EU's competitiveness.

"The challenge for the EU is to acknowledge that it has a competitive position. Competition is fundamentally good; competition is anticipated; and competition drives companies, firms and individuals to improve their services," Szunomar told Xinhua.

In that sense, the 16+1 mechanism serves as an opportunity for China and the EU to strive towards a harmonious relationship, Szunomar said.

As CEE countries are showing increasing interest in cooperation with China, zero-sum mentality and ideological bias are actually holding the EU back, putting the whole union's prosperity at risk.

The world now calls for mutual respect and understanding, Orban said in his speech. "Europe should not be a fortified Europe, and Europe should not close its doors," he said.