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PRESS RELEASE


EBRD Report Says the Belt and Road Is for All of Europe

Oct. 10, 2017 (EIRNS)—Just before the Sept. 14 China/CEE Development Forum in Poland, reported in the Oct. 10 Briefing, a major report on the CEE (Central and Eastern European Countries) and the Belt and Road Initiative was issued through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The report, a 60-page Word document, linked to from an EBRD article "What China’s ’Belt and Road Initiative’ Means for the Western Balkans," confronts Europe as a whole with the challenge of welcoming the Belt and Road as a force for mutual economic benefit. Its author is the EBRD chief economist, Jens Bastian, formerly chief economist of European Reconstruction Agency and its board member for Greece.

"Countries in the Western Balkans such as Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and F.Y.R. Macedonia are making concessions to Chinese investors and state-owned lenders precisely because they want China to be embedded in their economies,"

the report says.

"For countries in the region, such embeddedness can also serve as an additional hedge against Russian, Gulf States and Turkish involvement. But it does not present itself as an alternative to attracting EU investments."

Bastian writes that the countries of what he also calls the Balkans Silk Road

"are expanding their trade relations with Beijing and diversifying their lending options beyond Europe. Sino-Balkan initiatives currently primarily focus on large-scale infrastructure projects with Chinese financial institutions providing the bulk of lending on concessional terms. Seen in this light, policy makers in Tirana, Skopje, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Podgorica frame the narrative as an emerging win-win strategy. They argue that their countries are opening-up to China, but that at the same time China is opening up to south-eastern Europe with investments and lending, trade and cultural exchange."

The report says that China’s direct (corporate) investments in Western Europe are also focussed on transport infrastructure. Bastian told the publication Emerging Europe,

"What China is doing via the BRI is establishing trade links and logistical networks for the shipment and distribution of Chinese goods into Europe via the ports of Greece, onward transport to and through Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia (three land-locked countries) before reaching Hungary, hence high-speed railway projects between Belgrade and Budapest. In essence, the Balkan Silk Road connects China with EU member states, EU candidate countries, NATO members and euro area members. The Chinese focus is on Europe as a whole."

The report is titled, "The Potential for Growth Through Chinese Infrastructure Investments in Central and South-Eastern Europe along the ’Balkan Silk Road,’" which was also the focus of the Sept. 14 event in Poland.