China influence in Eastern Europe worries West

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Coal-powered plants networks, leading bridges, roads and railwaysdivisions have been booming during Central and the cash-strapped developing nations of Eastern Europe , even as European Union officials struggle to counter Beijing political and economic influence on the continent.

EU member Croatia has been hosting a summit Thursday involving 16 regional nations — that the 8th so much — that focuses on expanding company and other connections between China and China.

The gathering in Dubrovnik of the so called 16+1 initiative is made up of Central and Eastern European countries which have endorsed China’s ambitious international”Belt and Road” investment undertaking, which has triggered concerns among some key EU countries about improved Chinese political and economic clout in the area.

China has already invested billions of dollars in infrastructure projects in Central and Eastern Europe. Leaders fear that further investment could mean other and ecological standards than those in the remainder of the bloc.

Thorny issues include potential over-borrowing by a number of the countries the flouting of EU competition rules, the standard of structures, and safety concerns over high-speed 5G network technology provided by Chinese businesses. Critics also say this to Chinese markets, Beijing must give better access for firms in return for allowing Chinese expansion into the area.

Leading officials have sought to relieve EU worries of unfair competition from Chinese companies, which benefit from the financial backing of the government. Chinese President Xi Jinping consented to work to search trade rules.

Of the 16 participating countries — Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia — 11 are all EU member states, along with the remaining five want to join.

Beijing has marketed its initiative for a means to give a boost to a number of the most needy states of Europe, helping them obtain access to more investment and trade. That has been largely welcomed by the Central and Eastern European states.

Linda Tjiaan expert on Chinese development plan in the City University of Hong Kong, said there is not any evidence to support issues that Beijing is harboring”neo-colonial” goals to exploit Eastern Europe, Africa and other developing economies.

European leaders”have to somehow show their people they’re trying to protect national interests,” Tija said.

Major infrastructure jobs in the area include a rail to Belgrade in Serbia, from the capital, Budapest. The line will link up with the Chinese- controlled port of Piraeus as a entry point for products to Central and Eastern Europe in Greece.

Because Chinese banks could offer financing the project has attracted scrutiny, and firms would supply technology and the actual building. That conflicts with EU rules requiring functions to be broken into sections small enough to attract bidders.

Hungary last year failed to signal up an EU report criticizing China’s human rights record and company policies.

An EU membership candidate, in Serbia companies are building highways and bridges. They are also constructing a big power plant as China is attempting to curb pollution by lessening the use of lignite, undoubtedly the most polluting fossil fuel and implementing renewable energy projects.

Serbian analyst Mijat Lakicevic said the strategically-located Balkan nation located between East and West is the ideal location where”China can realize its economic idea, the way it needs to input (Eastern European) markets,” without even concern over rational bidding processes or pollution criteria.

EU’s energy watchdog has warned that the movement would eventually harm Bosnia’s bid. Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has stated the problem”raises serious concerns” regarding the Balkan nation’s”commitment to global treaties (and) European rules”

Chinese companies are also involved with the construction of a 380-million Peljesac bridge in Croatia, which links two coastal parts over the Adriatic Sea, as well as a street.

That did not change Czech President Milos Zeman position toward Huawei.

Zeman openly criticized the watchdog, stating it harms the company pursuits of the Czech Republic as it could impact Huawei’s strategy to invest $370 million in 5G networks from the Czech Republic.

U.S. officials mounted an global effort to keep Huawei equipment out of any foreign 5G system that might transmit sensitive U.S. intelligence.


Associated Press journalists Joe McDonald at Beijing; Jovana Gec at Belgrade, Serbia; Pablo Gorondi at Budapest, Hungary; Sabina Niksic in Sarajevo, Bosnia; and Karel Janicek in Prague; contributed to the report.