Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, the European commissioner from Lithuania in charge of health and food safety confirmed on December 5 that there is no evidence food products supplied to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are of poorer quality than in Western Europe. The row over CEE groceries, however, looks far from being over.
Prague was CEE’s top performer for office investment during the first nine months of 2017, the Czech capital seeing deals worth a total of 746 million euros completed during that period. The rise in investment activity over the past few years reflects growing investor appetite in view of the market’s economic and political stability, transparency and higher returns.
HSBC – the world’s seventh largest bank by total assets and the largest in Europe – announced on January 4 that it is to launch a business desk in Poland, to facilitate trade and investment flows between China and the growing economies of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The bank’s new Warsaw China Desk will focus, in particular, on Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, which together have attracted the bulk of China’s investment in the region. The move comes as bilateral trade between China and the region grew to nearly 59 billion US dollars in 2016, up 4.3 per cent year-on-year.
The European Union’s Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA), Polish operator Gaz-System and its Slovak counterpart Eustream have signed an agreement to construct a new gas pipeline connecting Poland and Slovakia.
A Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between China and Georgia took effect on January 1, 2018. It means that around 94 per cent of Georgian products will be free from customs duty while Georgian services and commodities will enter a 1.4 billion-person market.
Romania ended 2017 without seeing any major new infrastructure projects completed. Despite the various promises of Razvan Cuc, Minister of Transport from January to October, who back in June claimed that at least 90 kilometres of new motorway will open this year, not a single metre of new highway has in fact been completed. Stefan Ionita, boss of CNAIR – the national roads company – also claimed (in March) that 90 kilometres of motorway would be completed last year.
Local innovation has progressed in a spectacular way over the past decade throughout Emerging Europe, although there are still countries – in particular Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia – which lag behind. That is one the key findings of a major new report looking at start-up innovation and investment in Emerging Europe published by East-West Digital News (EWDN) in December 2017.
Bulgaria took over the rotating presidency of the European Council from Estonia on January 1. “Bulgaria takes charge of the EU presidency at a key moment for the union,” said Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. “May the slogan ‘strength in unity’ guide us. I am confident that we shall work with success on our priorities, on continuity.” Continue reading Bulgaria Takes on EU Presidency
China and Moldova have formally agreed to begin talks on the establishment of a free-trade deal. Officials from the two countries signed an agreement in Beijing on December 29 following the completion in May of a six-month joint feasibility study. Its results recommended that establishing a free-trade deal would be conducive to deepening bilateral ties, tapping the potential of economic and trade cooperation, and promoting economic development in both countries. Moldova lies on the One Belt One Road/New Silk Road route and is potentially an important Eurasian trade partner for China. In 2014 it signed an Association Agreement with the EU.
Plans to create one of Europe’s largest ski areas in the mountains above the Bulgarian town of Bansko moved closer to reality on December 28 when the country’s government approved a new management plan for Pirin National Park. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) the new management plan may eventually allow construction in up to 48 per cent of the park, a World Heritage site home to bears, chamois, wolves and centuries old pine forests. The decision, announced a few days before Bulgaria takes over the Presidency of the European Council, came a day after the closure of a public consultation on the proposed changes, but makes no mention of the consultation’s outcome.
The combative president of Moldova Igor Dodon potentially sparked a new political crisis on December 28 when he vetoed the appointment of seven new ministers. It is the second time that Dodon has rejected the nominations – part of a cabinet reshuffle which took place on December 19 aimed at promoting a more technocratic style of government.
Slowly but steadily, Belarus continues to liberalise its regulations to attract more foreign investment. The country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, recently signed a decree on the development of the digital economy, thus making Belarus the first world’s jurisdiction with overall legal regulation of businesses based on blockchain technology.