Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Thank you China and welcome President Xi

By DUŠAN PROROKOVIĆ (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-17 08:19

Serbia also has the potential to become a logistics hub in Southeast Europe. China is already building Corridor 11-a highway that will connect Serbia and Montenegro-and is funding the modernization of the Budapest-Belgrade railway. There are also plans to modernize the railway south from Belgrade to the Greek port of Piraeus, which was bought by China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company.

Further plans could include investments in the Montenegrin port of Bar, which was built by former Yugoslavia as a strategically important port. Because of the war and subsequent events, this port had no traffic connection with the interior of the country and thus has never operated at full capacity. Next to Corridor 11 and modernization of the Belgrade-Bar railway this could be an additional seaport hub of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Besides, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have developed a project for the reconstruction of the Belgrade-Sarajevo railway going through Tuzla, a city where Chinese companies will build a new power plant. There is also a need to think about better use of the capacity of the Danube River, declared by the EU as its pan-European Corridor 7, as well as about construction of the strategically important canal Danube-Aegean Sea, from the river port of Smederevo to the Thessaloniki seaport.

However, President Xi is expected in Serbia not only because of the anticipated new economic arrangements. His visit also has a huge political importance. Chinese investments could serve to calm the growing political and social tensions. The Western model for future post-Yugoslav space has proven unsuccessful. After the deepening of global financial crisis, the West is no longer offering a successful development model. Instead, it is putting political pressures that generate tensions. Therefore, the Chinese plans and Belt and Road Initiative are politically important.

Moreover, Serbians have not forgotten China's political and economic help during the difficult years of war and sanctions. China's help may have been only symbolic, but it was hugely important. It made us feel that we are not alone. That is why President Xi will be welcomed in Serbia in a way that is rarely seen in Europe.

The author is executive director of the Center for Strategic Alternatives in Belgrade, Serbia.

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