CEE Is Key to China’s Belt and Road Initiative


With deep government pockets, technical sophistication and a comprehensive investment plan behind it, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) can have a big impact on the transformation of the Western Balkans. There are caveats, not least debt dependency on cheap Chinese loans, but a proactive approach throughout the region could bring welcome development for many in countries that are not prime investment destinations.

That is the conclusion of a major new report, commissioned by the EBRD, which looks at the potential for growth through Chinese infrastructure investments in Central and South-Eastern Europe.

“Countries in the Western Balkans such as Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and FYR Macedonia are making concessions to Chinese investors and state-owned lenders precisely because they want China to be embedded in their economies,” said Jens Bastian, the author of the report. “For countries in the region such embeddedness can also serve as an additional hedge against Russian, Gulf States and Turkish involvement. But it does not present itself as an alternative to attracting EU investments.”

Unveiled in 2013, the BRI is a development strategy which focuses on boosting connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, firming up China’s push to take a bigger role in global affairs via a China-centred trading network.

Mr Bastian, former chief economist of the European Agency for Reconstruction and member of the EU Task Force for Greece, does not however see the BRI, which has also earned the nickname Balkan Silk Road, as forcing a binary choice, EU or China, China or Russia, onto the governments of the Western Balkans. Far from it, in fact: “Countries in the Western Balkans are seeking additional economic partnerships,” he told Emerging Europe.

“They are expanding their trade relations with Beijing and diversifying their lending options beyond Europe. Sino-Balkan initiatives currently primarily focus on large-scale infrastructure projects with Chinese financial institutions providing the bulk of lending on concessional terms. Seen in this light, policy makers in Tirana, Skopje, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Podgorica frame the narrative as an emerging win-win strategy. They argue that their countries are opening-up to China, but that at the same time China is opening up to south-eastern Europe with investments and lending, trade and cultural exchange.”

Jens Bastian (courtesy of Jens Bastian)

The Balkan Silk Road is just one of two strategic routes that China is using to bring itself closer to Europe, Mr Bastian believes. The first is direct investment. “China is placing a significantly rising share of equity investment in companies in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and the UK,” he says. “These acquisitions have now reached a level, in terms of volume, and diversification across sectors (strategic ports, energy infrastructure and defence technology) that some member states of the EU and even the president of the commission are calling for the adoption of investment screening regulations.”

The BRI, therefore, can be seen a back road to Europe. “What China is doing via the BRI is establishing trade links and logistical networks for the shipment and distribution of Chinese goods into Europe via the ports of Greece, onward transport to and through Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia (three land-locked countries) before reaching Hungary, hence high-speed railway projects between Belgrade and Budapest. In essence, the Balkan Silk Road connects China with EU member states, EU candidate countries, NATO members and euro area members. The Chinese focus is on Europe as a whole.”

The day after Bastian published his report, the first China-CEE Development Forum was held in Warsaw, and it too left no doubt the CEE region would be crucial to the success of the BRI.

Hosted by the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) and Kozmiński University, Xu Kian, China’s ambassador to Poland, was bullish on current and future cooperation between China and the CEE region.

“There has been steady progress in trade between the two sides. Within the context of a sustained downturn in the international economy, China’s trade with CEE countries has grown,” Mr Xu said. “Mutual investment also continues to expand. Chinese enterprises have invested more than 8 billion US dollars in CEE.”

The Warsaw forum is part of a number being organised by CEIBS throughout Europe. The business school aims to provide the political, business and academic communities in China and Europe with an opportunity to offer insights into crucial international issues.


Effective Policies Have Strengthened the Georgian Economy

TBILISI GEORGIA Jul. 18 2017: Bridge of Peace is a bow-shaped pedestrian bridge a steel and glass construction over the Kura River in downtown Tbilisi capital of Georgia

German Multivac invests €15 million near Sofia

Romanian Cabinet Reshuffled as New Splits Emerge in Ruling Party

BUCHAREST ROMANIA - MAY 25 2014: The Victoria Palace. Victoria Square.

EBRD Finances Small Business Support And Foreign Trade Promotion In Belarus

CEE Nation Brands Still Behind Western Counterparts

TALLINN ESTONIA- JUNE 17: View of the modern high rise buildings on border with an old part of the city on June 17 2012 in Tallinn Estonia

High-Tech Park in Minsk is growing rapidly

Ametek opened a new factory in Subotica

Despite Public Anxieties, Migration is Playing a Key Role in ECA Growth

Bratislava city aerial panoramic view. Bratislava is the capital of Slovakia.

21st century Manufacturing Arrives at Great Stone

Great stone

Fitch And the World Bank: Economic Growth To Remain Solid Within CEE In 2016

IMF Believes State-Owned Enterprises Must Be Reformed

Image of the banknotes of new Belarusian banknotes five rubles put into circulation July 1 2016

Georgia’s Growth Continues

Batumi, Adjara, Georgia - May 27, 2016: Batumi, Adjara, Georgia. Gogebashvili Street Road And Marine Station Or Maritime Station Building Batumi On Background

Non-Financial Reporting No Longer a Secondary Consideration in CEE

Bulgaria’s cooperation with Israel could boost the economy

Emerging Europe Makes Great Strides in Improving Business Regulation for Entrepreneurs

Skopje Macedonia

Mayor: Armenia And Its Capital Yerevan Offer Safe Investment And Tourism To a Growing World

Lithuania Handed Top Marks for Business Services

Beautiful panorama of Vilnius Old Town taken from Gediminas hill; Lithuania

Chris Lowney — What Jesuit Spirituality Can Teach Us About Global Leadership

The Slovak Matchmaking Fair open for registration

Estcoin: Estonia’s Own Digital Currency?

1 euro coin money (EUR) currency of European Union Estonia over blue background

Global Players Dash for Tempting CEE

dollar pound euro coin on euro background.

Derek Chollet: There Is a Resurgence of Supporters of the Transatlantic Relationship

white house

EY: Belarus’ IT Scene Is Thriving

High tech park minsk

Ukraine’s Q2 Growth Climbs

kyiv ukraine emerging europe

The Reality in Romania Exposes False Perceptions Of The Country

Valga and Valka – Where Estonia and Latvia Work Together

Valga valka emerging europe

Baltics Seek Lockstep With High Tech States

Euro money: Macro view of euro coin and bill. Suitable for financial, monetary, euro or European Union concepts and ideas

Sarajevo Stock Exchange Connected to SEE Link

sarajevo stock exchange

Slovenia is the CEE region’s leader in VAT collection

Albania’s Construction Sector Supports the Country’s Growth

SARANDA, ALBANIA - MAY 18: View of the city Saranda, most important tourist attraction of the Albanian Riviera on May 18, 2017 in Saranda, Albania.

Do Your Homework First and Starting Business in Poland is Easier

Croatian Salaries Are Growing in Line With Other CEE Countries

Dubrovnik Croatia emerging europe

Meghri Becomes Armenia’s Third FEZ

armenia emerging europe

Škoda too Strong for VW Group

MLADA BOLESLAV CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 30: Skoda Octavia on conveyor line during Doors Open Day at Skoda Auto a.s. factory. Skoda auto celebrated 120 years since its founding on May 30 2015 in Mlada Boleslav.

Poland to Switch from Emerging to Developed Market by September 2018

warsaw stock exchange

Romanian Economy Grows Fast in 2017

Brasov cityscape panoramic and aerial view over medieval architecture of Brasov town, in Transylvania Romania

Romanian Car Maker Dacia Sees Sales Boom

Sables d Olonne France - May 07 2017 : Dacia Tour 2017 is a commercial operation organized by the car builder in order to present its cars throughout France - Close-up on cars

Bloomberg Croatia Business Day 2015

Latvia Urged Not to Increase Expenditure As Economy Grows

Riga, Latvia - August, 2010: Panorama view from Riga cathedral on old town of Riga, Latvia

Lech Wałęsa: Hard Options Can Force Nations to Get Down to Work

GSA Names Ukraine as UK’s Offshoring Destination of the Year

map of ukraine emerging europe

EU Membership and Transition into Market Economies Have Helped CEE Achieve Social Progress

Macedonia — Stepping Out Of the Shadow Of the Balkans

Prospering Czechia Still Needs a Bigger Workforce

prague emerging europe

Estonia Leading CEE Country in WEF Competitiveness Index

pharmaceutical factory woman worker operating production line at pharmacy industry manufacture factory

Putin Urges Belarus to End Oil Transit Through Lithuania

Athens Greece - May 27 2016: Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers

Romania Cuts Income Tax, Introduces Solidarity Tax

CLUJ NAPOKA ROMANIA - OCT 2 2016: People on the central street of Cluj Napoka - the unofficial capital of Transylvania.

Digital Business Space Gives All Businesses an Office in Sarajevo

Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina - August 24 2015. View from Vraca Memorial Park with building of Avaz Twist Tower

Poland’s Q2 2017 Growth Is Stronger Than Expected

WARSAW, POLAND - MAY 07, 2016: Building Palace of Culture and Science among the modern buildings of the city

SEE Link — Sharing SEE Europe’s Hopes for a Brighter Investment Future

Economy builds bridges in Mostar

Doing Business Across Eurasia Could Be Easier

Eurasia emerging europe schneider group

The Czech government attracts FDI and creates jobs

Larisa Manastirli: Where is Bulgaria After Ten Years in the EU?

EconMin: Bulgaria — Number One Outsourcing Destination And an Island of Stability in Europe

Lithuania Set to Streamline Competition Legislation

Industrial dock with cranes on the quay

Poland Stays Cool on Euro Adoption

Euro cash and Zloty on one photo.

PE and VC Investment In CEE Is At an Eight-Year High

venture capital

Albania’s Economy Booms Despite Political Infighting

Panorama view to the city Tirana Albania

World Bank: Brexit Hides Greater Challenges to the European Union and the CEE Region

Ukraine to Restart Privatisation to Realise Profits

Pricatisation electricity ukraine

Belarus-Turkey Investment Forum to increase investment and trade between the two countries

Belarus is the most creative EEU country

A Risky Evaluation of Croatia’s Economy?

ZAGREB, CROATIA - JULY 17, 2017: Square Ban Josip Jelacic with tourists and trams on a summer day in Zagreb. City of Zagreb is the capital of Croatia.

Poles Still Keen on German Jobs

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in Germany. The Brandenburg Gate is a triumphal arch a city gate in the center of Berlin. It is one of the most known sites in Berlin.

Globalisation Needs to Work, Not Only for the Few but for the Most and in Demonstrable Ways

Global Spread

Plovdiv — an emerging outsourcing destination

Towards a resilient Europe, strategies for the future

Moldova Launches New e-Procurement System In Search For Positive Change

Photo team work process, holding contract hand, signs documents. Account managers young crew works with startup project.New idea presentation, analyze marketing reports.Blurred, film effect, horizontal.

UK Economic Growth Slows as Brexit Uncertainty Bites

flags of UK and EU combined over icons of London - Brexit concept

Estonia Proposes Bill of Rights and Responsibilities for Robots

Robotic hand accessing on laptop the virtual world of information. Concept of artificial intelligence and replacement of humans by machines.

Investing in Ukrainian Food and Agriculture

IMF Increases Growth Forecast With Emerging Europe Prominent

Dambovita river and center of Bucharest at sunset time Romania.

Foreigners choose Minsk and Gomel as Belarus’ most attractive FDI destinations

Jadranka Joksimović: Serbia Takes Its Candidacy of the EU Seriously


More EU Help for Belarus SMEs

GRODNO BELARUS - DECEMBER 13 2013: Seamstress in textile factory sewing with a industrial sewing machine .

New investors interested in Belarus’ Great Stone Industrial Park

Slovenia Sets Green Vehicle Deadline of 2030


Bosnia and Herzegovina: Focussing on Stability and Business Climate

Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina - August 23 2015. View of Miljacka River in Sarajevo city

GE Inaugurates Its New Bucharest Software Centre

Asian Outsource Developer Team Sitting At Desk Working Laptop Computer Mobile Application Software Real Office

Polish Labour Market Deficits Are Impacting All

Construction site with crane and building. Construction site in western europe - in Poland.

Trans Adriatic Pipeline Will Fuel Albanian Growth

Xanthi. Greece - July 30 2017: aerial view of construction of gas pipeline Trans Adriatic Pipeline - TAP in north Greece. The pipeline starts from the Caspian sea and reaches the coast of southern Italy

Lithuania Gives Innovation a StartUp

MILAN ITALY - MAY 2: People visit Lithuania pavilion at Expo universal exposition on the theme of food on MAY 2 2015 in Milan.

Changes Are Making Ukrainian Banking More Aligned with International Standards

CEE Emigrants Could Boost Their Countries’ Economies

Londoners walking through Millennium Bridge with St.Paul's Cathedral at the background after sunset - London, UK

CEE-Benefits and Disadvantages of Joining the Eurozone

forint zloty euro

Nadiya Savchenko: I Dream of a Great Ukraine

Panorama of the top part of the Andrew's Descent from Castle Hill in springtime in Kiev Ukraine.

Automotive and Transport Companies Dominate the CEE Region

Car bodies on the production line inside automobile factory

Hungary Today: Potential and Challenge

Chain bridge on Danube river in Budapest city. Hungary. Urban landscape panorama with old buildings and domes of opera

Estonia — Easy Doing Business Destination seminar in the UK

Kosovo: A Population of Talented Young Entrepreneurs Waits at Europe’s Door

Business Standards Are High in SEE But Vary Widely

Aerial view of The Cathedral of the Assumption in Varna

World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2016 Resume For Emerging Europe

China Agrees to Build Hi Tech Business Park in Serbia

BELGRADE SERBIA - SEPTEMBER 29 2016: View on the city center and the junction of Rivers Sava and Danube in Belgrade Serbia.

After Economic Shocks Armenia Plans for Macroeconomic Stability

yerevan armenia minister of finance

Merkel: Albania is taking big steps forward

Slovenia is CEE’s leader in innovation

More Brexit Fears As the UK Proves To Be A Needed Member

City of London view from Waterloo Bridge. This view includes: St. Paul`s Cathedral The Gherkin Tower 42 and Blackfriars Bridge.

Serbia, Belarus and Ukraine Ranked Lowly by Wharton Business School

Kyiv Ukraine - April 172017: The postal square in Kiev on Podol the Dnipro river. view of the square from the river panorama

Still Potential for Growth in CEE as Economies Stabilise

Western Ukraine Could Be an Entry Point into the Country

Belarus’ Economy Is Slowly Recovering From Past Declines

Albania is creating three free economic zones

Investigations Into the Corrupt Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Sectors

Ukrainian money hryvnia. The national currency. Corruption in Ukraine

Growth Continues for State-Owned Azerbaijan Airlines

Azerbaijan Baku - September 16 2015: View of the Heydar Aliyev International Airport sign in Baku Azerbaijan. The airport is the home of Azerbaijan Airlines the national flag carrier.

Poland’s Business Constitution Must Be Finalised

Front of finance ministry in Warsaw Poland with a fountain framing the entrance. Could be used for images about Euro currency problems

Economy Minister: Internationalisation Is the Key To the Slovenian Economy

Bad Payers Still Causing Problems for Romanian Firms

Close up Romanian currency note, LEI or LEU, Romania

Chickens Blamed for Romanian Budget Deficit

Two white chickens or hens inside a chicken coop or hen house seen through chicken wire.

Poland Is Set To Become a Large Economic Zone

Aerial view over the building materials processing factory. View from above.

Revenues Of Bulgarian IT Companies Have Sextupled In the Last Decade

Beyond Borders: Immigration Within the EU

refugees immigrants

CEE Tech Growth Continues: Poland and the Czech Republic Lead the Way


High Real Estate Prices at Home Force Czech Investors Abroad

Construction of the Petrin lookout tower in Prague Czech Republic

CEE Must Improve Infrastructure and Logistics

Aerial view of Gliwice Sosnica motorway junction. There are international traffic in four directions

Ukraine Is Offering Europe Unique Combat and Technological Experience

Air Passenger Volumes Reach Record High in the Baltics


Lviv Is the Pearl and the Soul of Ukraine

Belarus Introduces New Business-Friendly Auditing Procedures

MINSK, BELARUS - AUGUST 15, 2016: Aerial view of the southwestern part of the Minsk with Palace of Sport and old and new other buildings. Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *