What was already speculated in advance, was officially confirmed on Friday in Dubrovnik: Even the Greeks have joined the initiative 16 + 1, which has become the club 17 + 1. This puts 12 EU Member States in the group, as well as five other European countries and China. The initiative was established in 2012 to promote business and investment relations between China and the countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attended the summit meeting in Dubrovnik. The Chinese have long been present in Greece. They have invested over five billion euros since 2009. They are also the main owners of the Greek port of Piraeus.
Most of the money goes to Serbia
For Central and South-Eastern European countries, the main reason for China is the gigantic infrastructure project "New Silk Road". Beijing plans to invest billions in ports, roads, railways, telecom networks or airports as part of this project. New economic and trade corridors are to be created in Europe, Africa, as far as Latin America, but also within Asia.
In the past decade, China has invested billions of dollars in Eastern Europe – partly as loans and partly as construction contracts. Most of the money went to Serbia: more than ten billion dollars. There, Beijing has invested mainly in the steel and armaments industry as well as in infrastructure. It is followed by Hungary (almost four billion dollars) and Poland (about three billion dollars).
China as a savior of the Croatian economy?
With the host Croatia, there is still a lot of room for improvement in this regard: there, the Chinese investment amounts to only 0.69 billion dollars. In the Croatian media there is great euphoria these days during the meeting in Dubrovnik: In addition to the detailed reporting on the menus of the state banquets and on the ladies' program also a good economic message chased the other.
To build the Peljesac Bridge in record time? No problem for Chinese. Big investments in Croatian roads and rails? A decided thing. Croatian agricultural products in the Chinese market? Already signed. Thus, during these days, the Chinese mutate into the long-awaited saviors of the ailing local economy.
And the best is yet to come: the possible rescue of the Croatian shipyard Uljanik, which is practically facing bankruptcy. As the Croatian newspaper Jutarnji List claims to have learned from a "government-related source," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang personally picked up the phone at four in the morning on Wednesday and called the Chinese shipyard CSIC. The representatives of CSIC and Uljanik are scheduled to meet in Zagreb next week, and if they agree, CSIC could become the strategic partner of the ailing Pula shipyard.
China wants to continue opening
Parallel to the political summit, an economic forum was also held in Dubrovnik, attended by about 1000 entrepreneurs from China and Europe. In addition to the lucrative business, the Forum also put into operation an Internet platform designed to help coordinate the contacts between small and medium-sized enterprises in the Member States. In China, as many as 90 percent of companies belong to this category – and every day, an average of 15,000 new companies are founded.
As in Brussels a few days ago, Li Keqiang also announced in Dubrovnik a stronger opening of the Chinese market for European products and companies. In order not to upset the suspicious Brussels, the participants of the summit announced that they would submit joint contracts in Brussels.
The next summit meeting of this kind will take place in China next year.