ZAGREB, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- Nine years on, cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries has progressed in various fields with trade between the two sides enlarged nearly 85 percent and the number of mutual tourist visits growing nearly five times.
As Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the China-CEEC Summit held via video link on Tuesday, cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) "has served the purpose of supporting our respective development and bettering the lives of our people."
Under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China and CEE countries have made impressive progress in a number of cooperation projects.
Take Hungary's Kaposvar photovoltaic power plant being constructed by China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation for example. The plant, once completed, will be the country's largest solar power station expected to produce 130 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 120,000 tons each year.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Stanari Thermal Power Plant built by China Dongfang Electric Corporation (DEC) has generated on-grid power of more than 7 billion kilowatt-hours since it went into operation in 2016, making the country an exporter in European markets.
The plant has directly created hundreds of jobs, Aleksandar Milic, technical director of the power plant said, adding that operation of the plant in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina meets or even exceeds the EU standards, thanks to the energy-saving and emission-reducing technology DEC had independently developed.
In southern Croatia, a Chinese consortium is working on the 2.4 km cable-stayed Peljesac Bridge, which will connect the southern tip of the Croatian mainland to the Peljesac Peninsula, thus giving Croatia its long-awaited territorial continuity and traffic convenience.
In Greece, China's COSCO Shipping investment in Piraeus port over the past decade has made it the top port in the Mediterranean with 5.65 million twenty-foot equivalent units handled at the port in 2019.
The privatization of the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) has boosted Greece's GDP by about 1 billion euros (1.21 billion U.S. dollars) annually on average in the period 2011-2019, helping lift the country out of its debt crisis.
In about a decade, the PPA is expected to contribute over 375 million euros (454 million dollars) to the country's GDP and provide over 5,500 jobs, according to the Athens-based think tank Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research.
Across Serbia, Chinese investments have created thousands of jobs in sectors such as automobile parts, mining, steel, furniture and others, according to the Development Agency of Serbia.
Among them, the rejuvenation of Smederevo steel factory was most talked about. In 2012, Pittsburgh-headquartered U.S. Steel sold the steel factory to the Serbian government for a symbolic 1 dollar, leaving the company and its 5,000-plus workers in limbo.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic recalled that "the steelworks consumed around 12 million euros of state funds of Serbia every month, and we did not know how to solve this problem." The watershed moment came in 2016 as HBIS Group, China's largest and the world's second-largest steel and iron producer, purchased Smederevo and retained all the employees. Now the company renamed as Hesteel Serbia is the biggest exporter in Serbia.
JOINT WORK DESPITE COVID-19
Despite the raging COVID-19 pandemic, China and CEE countries have never stopped cooperation. When the pandemic broke out at the beginning of last year, China received generous donations from CEE partners. Then as the outbreak ravaged Europe, China returned the favor by donating and sourcing much-needed protective suppliers and medical equipment.
At the virtual China-CEEC Summit, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic thanked China for helping his country procure protective equipment and other necessities during the pandemic.
"The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of both good governance and multilateral cooperation," he said, adding that "joint effort and solidarity will be crucial for us to deliver the vaccine to everyone, which is the main precondition for ending the pandemic."
Serbia has received the first batch of 1 million doses of China's Sinopharm inactivated coronavirus vaccines. "We know that mass vaccination is possible thanks to the first million doses that arrived from China," said Darija Kisic Tepavcevic, Serbia's minister of labor, employment, veterans and social affairs.
Hungary also reached a deal to buy China's Sinopharm vaccine, which will allow the vaccination of 2.5 million people. Hungary is the first EU member to acquire Chinese vaccine.
CONFIDENCE IN COOPERATION
China's trade with CEE countries has logged an average annual growth rate of 8 percent, which is twice the growth of its trade with Europe as a whole. China's total trade volume with CEE countries reached 103.45 billion dollars in 2020, crossing the 100-billion-dollar mark for the first time.
"Cooperation with China is needed for all European Union countries, including Croatia," Milan Bandic, mayor of Croatian capital Zagreb, told Xinhua. "I see this cooperation on the economic level, without any political conditions."
Expecting a continuing growth of China-CEEC trade, he said "more intensive cooperation between Europe and China in the field of science and research should continue, primarily to ensure larger quantities of COVID-19 vaccines."
"I am convinced that our cooperation through the exchange of good practices offers us a privileged framework for an enhanced and rapid recovery of both Europe and China in the coming period," Plenkovic told the video summit on Tuesday. Enditem
(Shi Zhongyu in Belgrade, Yu Shuaishuai in Athens, Zhang Zhang in Warsaw, Zhang Xiuzhi in Sarajevo, Yuan Liang in Budapest and Yu Tao in Vienna contributed to the report.)