Sino-Serbian ‘Iron Friendship’ becomes stronger

By Milan Bačević Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/19 23:26:24

Serbian Ambassador to China Milan Bačević Photo: Courtesy of Serbian Embassy to China

Serbia and China have a long history of bilateral relations based on friendship, mutual trust and compatibility of our strategic interests. Our "Iron Friendship" is constantly developing and becoming even stronger with the development of each new project.

The last five years have seen the most intensive and dynamic period in our cooperation. Therefore, I can proudly say that political and economic relations between our two countries are at the highest level in history. Bilateral dialogue at the top level has never been so rich and versatile, which is also reflected in the fact that in the last five years we had eight visits between our leaders, including last year's visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Serbia, the first of its kind in 32 years. During that visit, our partnership was brought to the level of "a comprehensive strategic partnership," giving a new impetus to the deepening of our cooperation in all domains.

Serbia is fully committed to the successful development of the Belt and Road initiative. It was one of the first countries to sign the MoU with China on the promotion of the Economic Belt of the Silk Road and our President (then Prime Minister) Aleksandar Vučić participated in the Belt and Road Forum last May in Beijing. 

Our geographical position links the Maritime Silk Road for the 21st Century with Central Europe, opening huge opportunities for cooperation in the field of infrastructure construction. Since the establishment of cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries, Serbia has been very active within this framework. We were hosts of the Third 16+1 Summit in Belgrade in 2014 and also of forums on cultural heritage, cultural industry and higher education. The first big infrastructure project within the 16+1 cooperation was the construction of the high-speed railway which will link Serbia's capital Belgrade with Budapest (Hungary). Furthermore, Serbia is a candidate country for membership of the European Union, and we see our European integration as being in line with the development of our good bilateral relations with China. 

Within the past five years, we have made unprecedented progress in our bilateral economic cooperation. The total value of all ongoing and planned infrastructure projects in Serbia being developed with Chinese partners is 5.6 billion euros ($4.73 billion). Good examples include the construction of the bridge over the Danube River and the revitalization of the Kostolac Power Plant.  The privatization of the Zelezara Smederevo steel plant by the company HeSteel is an excellent example of successful Chinese investment, and we expect that our cooperation in the coming period will be based not only on infrastructure projects, but also on direct investments. 

At the beginning of 2017, Serbia and China established a visa-free regime for their citizens, and in September direct flights re-opened between our capitals. 

In the past five years, our cultural cooperation has been greatly enriched. Numerous projects and cultural events within the China-CEEC mechanism as well as within the bilateral framework have enabled our two countries to strengthen friendship and mutual understanding. 

One important accomplishment was the decision on the mutual establishment of cultural centers. We expect the Serbian Cultural Center to open its doors by the end of this year and by the end of 2018, Belgrade will get its own Chinese Cultural Center, the largest in this part of Europe. At the meeting between the two presidents last year, it was agreed to promote cooperation in the film industry. We have also seized opportunities in the field of publishing, especially after our two countries were guest countries at book fairs in Beijing and Belgrade. The first performance by Belgrade's National Theatre in front of a Chinese audience was also perceived as another success. 

The development of China is of the utmost importance for progress in the world. Your country has achieved extraordinary results in many fields and I am very confident that it will successfully continue to realize all the reforms and plans for sustainable growth. We look with optimism for further cooperation with China, and I strongly believe that our efforts will result in new achievements of our joint development.

The author of this article is the Serbian Ambassador to China


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