The current status of China’s presence in Western Balkans as well as the respective policy implications were discussed in the International Conference “Constructing China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Europe” organized by Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft / Southeast Europe Association (SOG, Munich), and the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations (OA, Berlin).
The Conference was held in Berlin on May 3, 2018 and CDI was represented by its Research Director Mr. Ardian Hackaj as a panelist in the panel “China’s investment activities in Southeast Europe”.
The participants underlined the need for the EU to pay careful attention to what is taking place in its home market, the “home market” including the Western Balkans as well. Given the current situation and progress of WB6 market integration towards EU internal Market, we need to find an efficient way of applying EU rules and regulations in the Balkans as well.
The Conference discussion brought up the rule-based feature of the functioning of EU, feature that allows for equal participation of all economic actors, including the public funds contracting. However bigger attention must be shown in its application, wherever the need for reciprocity action appears
Regarding China engagement in the Balkans Silk Road, the discussions pointed out the increasing involvement of Chinese companies in the region through FDI or public contracts, the positive attitude of China in the favor of a solution between Greece and Macedonia, as well as the extraordinary development of the Piraeus Port activities.
Regarding the EU stance, participants mentioned that EU should talk in one voice in its relations with China. Regarding the interaction in Western Balkans, the EU Commission should: i) increase the intensity of engagement (should address the need for capital injection in Western Balkans) and accelerate its pace (keep progressing as recommended in the Enlargement strategy of February 2018). The EU Commission should be more focused on the impact of EU funds on the ground (through infrastructure connectivity as well as through socially-oriented measures of support).
Any new EU strategy on cooperation with China should include the Western Balkans as well. Here the Regional Cooperation Council is in a privileged place to provide a strategic roadmap in synergy with the EU policies in the region.
The event also treated in length the approach and challenges coming from EU procurement rules, the need for China to reciprocate in the opening of China’s public procurement to EU companies, the competition between EU and Chinese stakeholders in Artificial Intelligence, etc./p>
The agenda of the event can be consulted here.