BUDAPEST – China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang announced in the Hungarian capital on Monday that China Development Bank would provide funding worth 2 billion euros ($2.39 billion) for investment in Central and Eastern Europe.
Li made the statement at the sixth summit of heads of governments of Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC) and China.
China Development Bank will provide $2.39 billion for a development fund for the countries in the region, said Li on the first day of the annual summit.
The current edition is the sixth such summit of the so-called “16+1,” a platform where China meets 11 European Union member states and five other East European nations.
Li said that the second stage of the China-CEEC investment cooperation fund has been launched with a value of $1 billion, although he did not mention when these two funding projects would be operational.
The Chinese politician, accompanied by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, inaugurated the China-CEEC business forum, which is being held at the same time as the heads of governments’ meet.
Li highlighted the importance of these summits as they united the two furthest ends of the Eurasian continent, and stressed the importance of the openness of markets.
Orban said that Europe needed China for its growth, given that the modern world is marked by the rise of Asia and China.
The conservative Eurosceptic politician added that the summit benefits not only the nations involved, but all of Europe and the EU.
According to some analysts, Beijing has recently promoted investments in Eastern Europe as a tool for asserting greater influence in the region.
The project takes place within the framework of the Chinese strategy of promoting a new Silk Road, known in China as the “One Belt and One Road Initiative,” which aims to create a commercial corridor that brings the whole of the Eurasian continent closer.
China has invested in infrastructure, logistics and transport networks in Eastern Europe to allow Chinese products to have better access to markets in the region.
An example of the cooperation is a new rail link connecting Hungary and Serbia that will be constructed with a 1.75 billion euro loan by China.
In the western part of the Balkan region, for example in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chinese investments have been well received by countries undertaking reforms to reduce their public sectors and in need of funding to modernize obsolete infrastructure such as roads, bridges and railways.
Orban, the host of the summit, has a tense relationship with Brussels, and unlike many East European EU members, maintains good relations with Russia and Turkey.
In addition to China, the 16+1 nations are made up of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.