Fico: China Cannot Be Undervalued; It Offers Regions Beneficial Cooperation

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Slovak Prime Minister Rober Fico (first on the left) at a meeting of CEE countries and China in RIga (photo by mfa.gov.lv)

Bratislava/Riga, November 5 (TASR) – China cannot be underestimated, as it’s one of the largest economies in the world and an emerging superpower, and so it’s needed to build mutual relations, said Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico after the fifth meeting of the 16 central and eastern European countries (CEE16) and China in the Latvian capital of Riga on Saturday.

“The important thing for Slovakia is that it (China) is a country that pursues its national interests pragmatically, not ideologically. They offer every region in the world certain forms of cooperation that are mutually beneficial,” said Fico.

According to the Slovak prime minister, a great deal of energy has been lately invested into mutual relations between Slovakia and China. He noted that this country is among Slovakia’s largest trading partners and that the mutual trade amounted to more than €6 billion in 2015.

Representatives of the countries present at the meeting in Riga adopted six recommendations for 2016-17, according to which China and CEE countries should build their mutual cooperation, stated Fico.

The first recommendation concerns the development of interconnections. “There’s a huge interest in further infrastructure projects that will facilitate the interconnection between China and CEE countries. There are multiple options – from constructing rail corridors to creating flight connections.”

The rest of recommendations features financial cooperation, strengthening partnership in the so-called green economy – namely in the field of agriculture, increasing the possibilities for exchanging people via tourism, trade and cultural cooperation, and students exchange. The last two areas of potential development include cooperation in the fields of health and regions.

Furthermore, Fico took the opportunity of today’s meeting to invite the Chinese premier to Slovakia, who accepted Fico’s invitation. The exact date and the form of the visit is yet to be agreed upon.

“It’s necessary to continue working on Slovak-Chinese cooperation. Slovakia is negligible in comparison with the Chinese economy. On the other hand, any project of Chinese dimensions can mean a radical change for Slovakia,” said Fico.

The summit in Riga followed the results of the negotiations reached at the previous meeting in the Chinese city of Suzhou in November 2015. The basis for cooperation between China and CEE countries was established at the economic forum in Budapest (Hungary) in 2011. The first meeting of prime ministers in the current format involving CEE16 and China took place in Warsaw (Poland) in 2012.

Apart from China, today’s summit in Riga was attended by the following CCE countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Slovakia.

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