BRI projects bring benefits to Serbia

2024-05-08 10:20:23China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Serbia's economy and people have enjoyed "multiple" outcomes from its cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative, Serbian Ambassador to China Maja Stefanovic said, expressing her confidence that her country will continue to benefit from these projects.

Serbia is one of the first countries to have joined the BRI, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has attended all three Belt and Road Forums for International Cooperation that have been held.

Following President Xi Jinping's meeting with Vucic, who traveled to China to attend the third BRF in October, the leaders of the two countries witnessed the signing of multiple cooperation documents, including a mid-term action plan for Belt and Road cooperation.

Stefanovic told China Daily the plan has "set a blueprint of our future cooperation within the BRI".

The plan covers various sectors, such as bilateral cooperation in transportation, infrastructure, trade, investment and education, Stefanovic said.

The objective of the plan, she said, is "realizing mutual benefit, win-win outcomes and common development" through the implementation of relevant cooperation projects.

One of the best-known Belt and Road cooperation projects in Serbia is the upgrade of the railway connecting Serbia and Hungary, which is being undertaken by Chinese companies.

The railway section connecting Belgrade and the Serbian city of Novi Sad opened in March 2022, shortening travel time between the cities from 90 minutes to about 30 minutes.

Stefanovic said the construction of the section has "more than fulfilled the expectations of our citizens".

"In the two years since the start of operation, there were almost 41,000 departures. And almost 7 million passengers traveled more than 3 million kilometers in both directions," she said.

Besides transport infrastructure, Chinese companies have been engaged in other fields in Serbia, including the steel, automobile and energy industries.

One of the examples is the Smederevo steel mill, which was purchased by HBIS Group, based in Hebei province, in 2016.

The mill had suffered losses for years, but managed to turn around shortly after the purchase.

In a meeting with Xi in Beijing in 2018, Vucic said the revival of the steel mill is a successful example showing that the BRI has boosted employment and economic growth in Serbia.

So far, the plant is one of the largest exporters in Serbia, and is "well known in Southeast Europe for its high quality products", Stefanovic said.

In recent years, some people in Western countries have expressed their skepticism of Chinese investments and trade with China. Over the past year, some have advocated "de-risking" from China, citing what they call "national security concerns".

Stefanovic, however, said Serbia is "very satisfied" with investments from China.

"The Government of Serbia does not see any risk or 'national security concerns' coming from its cooperation with China," she said. "On the contrary, cooperation with China...has given a strong boost to the development of Serbia."

The ambassador said that Chinese investments have created almost 30,000 job opportunities in Serbia.

Looking into the future, Stefanovic said her country is ready to explore cooperation with China in cutting-edge areas such as artificial intelligence, information technology and green development.

For the ambassador, the "strong ties of mutual understanding, respect and support" between China and Serbia underlie sound cooperation in various fields.

Both countries have chosen a path of peaceful development, Stefanovic said. Also, they "share the same values" when it comes to international relations. "This further strengthens our overall relations and makes our friendship sustainable and resilient to all changes on a global level," she said.


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