Beijing, May 15 (TASR) – Ambitious investments in transport and trade projects and modern maritime and land infrastructure to connect Asia, Europe and Africa in order to imitate the ancient Silk Road have been discussed in Beijing at a meeting of senior officials from more than 100 countries, with 30 presidents and prime ministers and Slovak Economy Minister Peter Ziga in attendance, Economy Ministry spokesman Maros Stano told TASR on Monday.
The meeting was opened by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who at the same time announced an investment of $124 billion in a project called ‘One Belt, One Road’, which involves major reconstruction and modernisation efforts in transport infrastructure, including railways, transhipment points and ports. Apart from encouraging business, the trade link is also meant to prevent regional conflicts, claim the Chinese.
The project has been backed by senior figures such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Czech President Milos Zeman and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“Slovakia has had long-term interest in this major investment plan. It’s a historic opportunity, viewed as the project of the century. Everything indicates that the Chinese side and other important states such as Russia have strong interest in launching a ‘new Silk Road’. Even though the details still haven’t been released, it seems that the question is actually only whether the project will take place with us or without us,” said Ziga, adding that Slovakia is mainly interested in investments in rail transport, including transhipment points, and other Chinese investment activities. Talks with the Chinese on the issue should continue soon in line with a concept for developing Slovak-Chinese relations approved by the Slovak Cabinet last month.
Bilateral meetings also took place on the sidelines of the key event, with Ziga speaking to Hungarian Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto, for example. The two concurred that central European countries, which even combined can hardly compete with China in terms of territory and population, need to cooperate in this project.
Ziga also met officials of technology company Huawei, which is active also in Europe, including Slovakia, to discuss innovations, the development of smart technologies and support for Smart City projects. Huawei indicated that it’s interested in establishing closer cooperation with local and regional authorities in Slovakia, added the ministry spokesman.