China’s prime minister is to meet with leaders from Central and Eastern Europe when he attends a conference in the Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik.
Li Keqiang will on April 12 attend the eighth-annual 16+1 summit that Croatia is hosting to serve as a platform to discuss China's investments in the 16 countries of the region.
Eastern Europe plays a key role in Beijing's Belt and Road infrastructure and transportation project, which has been valued at up to $1 trillion and is aimed at building land and sea links to allow Chinese exports to move westward.
While in Croatia on April 11, Li visited a construction site where a major European Union-funded bridge is being constructed by a Chinese state-owned company.
The China Road and Bridge Corporation in 2018 won the right to build the 2.4-kilometer bridge through an international bid. The 420 million euro project is 85 percent financed by the EU, and is a rare Chinese project in Europe that went through a regular bidding process.
The Dubrovnik summit comes three days after an EU-China meeting in Brussels, where Li vowed to open China’s economy and deepen ties with the bloc.
EU Council President Donald Tusk hailed Beijing's new commitments as a "breakthrough," and both sides in a document called for "broader and more facilitated, nondiscriminatory market access" -- wording Europeans saw as a concession by the Chinese.
The EU has complained that European markets are open to Chinese companies, while EU firms experience difficulties operating in the Chinese market.