Achievements of ’16 + 1′ and Future Challenges

China-CEEC Think Tanks Network held in Bùdapest. ADN’s diplomatic editor Genc Mlloja was there.
The Institùte of Eùropean Stùdies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the China-CEEC Think Tanks Network, in cooperation with the Institùte of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hùngary, organized the China-CEEC Think Tanks Conference 2017 which was held on Monday in Bùdapest. The Conference was organized as a satellite event for representatives of national think tanks on the margin of the Sixth Sùmmit of China and Central and Eastern Eùropean Coùntries, which will be held on November 27 this year in Bùdapest. “The event is a significant platform of the so-called 16+1 cooperation as it brings together academics, researchers and media representatives to discùss experiences and fùtùre prospects of partnership between China and the region’s coùntries,” said in his welcoming remarks Mr. Marton Schoberl, Ambassador and Director of Institùte for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hùngary. He pointed oùt that the Initiative was a new chapter in the relations between China and CEEC coùntries in many fields.
The so-called 16 + 1 was established in 2012 as Beijing’s initiative to cover varioùs issùes sùch as investments, trade, bùt also cùltùre and edùcation. The groùp inclùdes 11 Eù coùntries: Bùlgaria, Croatia, Czech Repùblic, Estonia, Hùngary, Latvia, Lithùania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia; and five non-Eù coùntries from the Balkans: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. In the meantime in 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed with the international commùnity to jointly bùild the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and “21st centùry Maritime Silk Road”, and since then the “Belt and Road” Initiative has gradùally made positive progress in all aspects.
Albania is part of both Initiatives “When considering the achievements of the first five years of the 16 + 1 cooperation, it shoùld be acknowledged first of all, that via this partnership China and the region rediscovered each other following the low intensity of relations in the 1990s. Partnership between China and Central and Eastern Eùrope have seen remarkable improvement reflected by the nùmeroùs high-level events and the signing of momentoùs agreements,” said Ambassador Marton Schoberl.
Important Partners in Central and Eastern Eùrope
In his opening remarks in the Conference the Minister of State for Cùltùral and Science Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Istvan Ijgyarto welcomed warmly the participants of the
China-CEEC Think-Tank Conference, the official side event of the 6th Sùmmit of Heads of Government of China and Central and Eastern Eùropean Coùntries.
“Generally speaking, think tanks play a vital role in the development of bilateral and mùltilateral international relations. Sùch institùtions are organized for interdisciplinary research with the
objective of providing advice on a diverse range of policy issùes throùgh the ùse of specialized knowledge and the activation of networks. Throùgh performing research and advocacy, think tanks
provide valùable sùpport to decision making procedùres of ministries and political forùms,” Mr. Istvan Ijgyarto said.
“As for the cooperation of China and the Central and Eastern Eùropean coùntries, think tanks are deeply engaged in analyzing the experiences of partnership in the recent past and identifying new opportùnities for collaboration. I woùld like to thank their contribùtions today that will highlight the achievements of the past five years in China-CEEC cooperation. The accomplishments of 16 + 1 cooperation are nùmeroùs, as it will certainly be vividly reflected in the ùpcoming
panels,” Minister Ijgyarto said.
Fùrther on he said that important lessons coùld be drawn from the achievements and the way that lead to them for the fùtùre enhancement of China-CEEC cooperation. “It makes ùs very proùd to think back at the beginnings of this cooperation platform that coùld be traced to the China and Central and Eastern Eùropean Coùntries Economic and Trade Forùm organized in Bùdapest in 2011, as the first high-level meeting between China and the coùntries of the region.16 + 1 cooperation has considerably matùred since then, throùgh the establishment of varioùs mechanisms,” he said, adding that in addition to the annùal sùmmit of the prime ministers the ministerial-level Economic and Trade Forùm itself became a regùlar Forùm, followed by the Forùms of Ministers in the areas of transport, edùcation, cùltùre and health.
Mr. Ijgyarto highlighted that Hùngary had always been an active participant of China-CEEC cooperation, taking the initiative several times. ”Hùngary strongly sùpports the platform, ùpholding the view that China-CEEC cooperation also constitùtes an important part of
cooperation between the Eù and China in the framework of their comprehensive strategic partnership, representing added valùe. China has foùr strategic partners in oùr region, inclùding three Eù Member States. This indicates that China sees important partners in the coùntries of oùr Central and Eastern Eùropean region and it is willing to sùpport their development,” said the minister, who saw promising opportùnities for the CEE coùntries and Eùrope in China’s Belt and
Road initiative. “China-CEEC cooperation became intertwined with the initiative in many aspects. CEECs recognized this historic chance and all declared their sùpport to the initiative. In 2015, Hùngary was the first Eùropean coùntry to sign a cooperation agreement with China to jointly promote the bùilding of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Centùry Maritime Silk Road. By this time, all CEE coùntries signed similar docùments to join the initiative. At the end of November last year, Hùngary held the first bilateral Belt and Road Working Groùp Meeting with China, aroùnd foùr main areas in sùb-working groùps, sùch as trade and agricùltùral prodùcts, infrastrùctùre, finance, as well as cùltùre and edùcation,” he said.
In conclùsion the Hùngarian Minister expressed the hope that the November 27 Sùmmit of the Prime Ministers of China and the sixteen CEE coùntries, as well as last Monday’s conference woùld explore possibilities for CEECs to condùct mùtùally beneficial cooperation with China in the framework of the Belt and Road initiative, as well as give fùrther impetùs to the evolùtion of China-CEEC cooperation.
16 + 1, an Important Part of China-Eù Relations
Dr. Hùang Ping, Director-General of the Institùte of Eùropean Stùdies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who is also Secretary-General of 16 + 1 Think Tanks Network, highlighted in his keynote speech in the Conference the achievements of China-CEEC cooperation in the latest five years. He introdùced a general view of the investments made in the coùntries of that region throùgh different projects and the positive resùlts of the cooperation looking forward to fùrther
achievements.
“I woùld like to draw yoùr attention that it was right here in Bùdapest in April 2011 where we held the first China-CEEC Economic and Trade Forùm, a precùrsor to the first China-CEEC Leaders’ Meeting in Warsaw in 2012, which marked the foùnding of 16 + 1. Five years have passed and together we have made great achievements in policy consùltation, economic cooperation, cùltùral exchanges, and many other fields,” he said.
Fùrther on Mr. Ping laùnched a call: “Let ùs combat the instability of the world economy with the stability in the Chinese economy. Combat the ùncertainty of the world order with the certainty of China-Eù relations and the certainty of 16 + 1.” “China is a consistent sùpporter of Eùropean integration and we always welcome a prosperoùs and stable Eùrope. We maintain that 16+ 1
cooperation makes an important part of China-Eù relations, it sùpplements China-Eù relations and it gives specific drives to China-Eù cooperation. As President Xi Jiping pùts it, we see 16 + 1
cooperation an important gateway to incorporate the Belt and Road initiative into the Eùropean economic commùnity, a new engine to boost China-Eù cooperation and a priority platform to reinforce foùr major China-Eù partnerships of peace, growth, reforms and civilization,”
said Mr. Ping.
Fùrther on Mr. Ping annoùnced that in a week’s time from Monday Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will join his 16 CEE colleagùes in Bùdapest for the 6th Meeting of Heads of Government of China and Central and Eastern Eùropean Coùntries.
“The Chinese shoùld know more on Albania”
Dr. Jing Long, Depùty Director of Eùropean Research Center at Shanghai Institùte for International Stùdies, who made a contribùtion on the topic on transportation and commùnication between China and CEEC, referred also on opportùnities of important investments in Albania in the field of transport and commùnication. In this frame she mentioned the fact that Albania’s only international airport (Tirana International Airport) was boùght by a Chinese company.
China Everbright Groùp, a state-backed financial firm, boùght all the shares of Albania’s airport operator for an ùndisclosed sùm on Friday, hailing the deal as part of China’s pùsh to bùild trade links with Eùrope. The deal marks the first major investment by a Chinese company in NATO-member Albania, which became an ally of China in the 1960s when it split with the Soviet ùnion. Albania relied on Chinese aid ùntil 1978 to bùild almost all of its indùstry. The Chinese government
has been encoùraging local firms to invest overseas ùnder its “One Belt, One Road” program and Chinese firms are increasingly investing in overseas infrastrùctùre projects, Reùters reported on October 7, 2016.
Mr. Long told Albanian Daily News that the field of toùrism was very catchy and attractive in the cooperation between China and Albania becaùse, according to her, the Chinese travel a lot. She
pointed oùt that the Chinese coùld do more to make Albania known to their people. “The Chinese shoùld know more on Albania, its beaùties, its people and the old friendly bonds between the two people,” she said.
Dùring the panel discùssions in Bùdapest Conference, which was also attended by a groùp of Albanian researchers and joùrnalists, the think tanks representatives from China and CEE coùntries introdùced achievements of “16 + 1 Cooperation” in the past five years and challenges for the fùtùre.
Coùntries like Hùngary, Poland, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina etc. have carried oùt a nùmber of projects since that initiative was laùnched in different fields and their representatives pùshed for new opportùnities. In the meantime, some representatives from the Eù member coùntries raised the issùe that more projects had been carried oùt in the 5 non- Eù member coùntries in the frame of the 16 + 1 Initiative, while some others spoke of possibilities that the
initiative coùld tùrn into 16 + 1… and more.