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Chinese PM In Croatia To Talk Business With Leaders Of Central, Eastern Europe

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang speaksat a bridge-construction site in Brijesta, Croatia, on April 11.

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.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP