Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (C, front) arrives in Bulgaria on July 5, 2018, for an official visit to the country and the seventh meeting of heads of government of China and 16 Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) in Sofia. Li's visit is being made at the invitation of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. (Xinhua/Liu Weibing)
Premier Li Keqiang arrived at Sofia International Airport in Bulgaria late Thursday to start a six-day trip aimed at bringing new vitality to 16+1 cooperation with Central and Eastern Europe.
Li will make an official visit to Bulgaria on Friday and will attend the seventh Leaders' Meeting of China and Central and Eastern European Countries, also known as 16+1 cooperation mechanism, on Saturday. Li's first European visit since the formation of the new Chinese government also will take him to Germany.
Bulgaria, known as "a country of roses", was one of the first to establish diplomatic ties with New China, and they have maintained understanding and support for each other, Li said in a signed article published by the Bulgarian newspapers 24 Chasa and Standart on Wednesday.
In the past 10 years, bilateral trade doubled and Bulgaria's exports to China increased six times, Li said. China has become the third-largest trading partner and the second-largest market for Bulgarian exports outside the European Union, he said.
Li's visit is the first made by a Chinese premier to Bulgaria in 18 years. China would like to better align the Belt and Road Initiative with Bulgaria's development strategies and encourage Chinese companies to invest in Bulgaria and participate in infrastructure projects to boost a balanced increase in bilateral trade, he said.
In the past five years, Li had been to Romania, Serbia, Latvia and Hungary for annual China-CEEC leaders' meetings. China and the 16 nations aim to boost pragmatic cooperation, common development, economic transformation and upgrading, Li said. He called for building new growth engines to create new opportunities based on more than 200 existing measures focusing on trade, connectivity, production capacity, finance, agriculture and local cooperation.
The premier also called for a long-term blueprint to achieve more balanced trade and stimulate cooperation. China welcomes imports of competitive products from CEE countries, such as meat and dairy, wine, essential rose oil, amber and crystal, he said.
Meanwhile, China and CEE nations will continue to cooperate within the framework of EU laws and regulations and in line with the principles of openness and transparency, the premier said.
China remains a supporter of European integration and wants to see a united, stable, open and prosperous EU as well as a strong euro, Li added.
Chinese Ambassador to Bulgaria Zhang Haizhou said Bulgaria is one of the frontier nations for the Belt and Road Initiative from Asia to Europe. Last year, the first agricultural demonstration zone for the 16+1 mechanism was started in Bulgaria.