Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with the heads-of-government of 16 Central and Eastern Europe countries in Bulgaria.
Li said free trade is essential to global stability.
Although the U.S. trade war with China wasn’t initially on the agenda, it was an unavoidable topic for the host country and its Chinese visitor.
CGTN’s Aljosa Milenkovic reports from Sofia.
Bulgaria’s prime minister greets government leaders from 16 central and eastern Europe countries. Also attending the meeting Li Keqiang, the first visit by a Chinese premier in 18 years.
It was an important day for all of them here in Sofia: a number of deals to be ironed out and some fears to be dispersed.
The Chinese Premier responded to claims that China and the EU are on a collision course.
“The truth is that there is no fundamental conflict of strategic interests between China and Europe. China stands for multilateralism, a united and prosperous Europe, a stable pole in the international landscape. We believe the world would enjoy continued peace.”
The issue was addressed by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov as host of this year’s 16+1 meeting.
“It is not by accident that after this meeting Premier Li Keqiang will go to Berlin to meet Chancellor Merkel. Whatever we did here is very open and transparent. So I can say the following to critics: All the rules of the European Union will fully comply with this format 16+1.”
Leaders of 16 Central and Eastern European countries together with Premier Li Keqiang repeatedly stressed the 16+1 format is not aimed at anyone specifically, and its primary goal is actually to increase the quality of life and the GDP of those nations.
A number of agreements were signed at the meeting.
Among them the start of construction of a 150-kilometer high-speed railway in Serbia to the border with Hungary funded by China.
Premier Li also announced that China will import up to 10 million tons of tobacco from Bulgaria.
Croatia will host the next 16+1 meeting.
Sara Hsu on Chinese engagement in Central & Eastern Europe
For more on China’s efforts to grow its footprint in central and eastern Europe, CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg spoke with Sara Hsu, an associate professor of economics at the State University of New York at New Paltz.