At the upcoming summit of the prime ministers of China and 16 CEE countries in Bulgaria, a commercial contract on the final section of the high-speed railway Belgrade-Budapest, from Novi Sad to Subotica, worth around a billion euros, will be signed.
– The works on this section should start next year – Serbian Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic told Tanjug.
The importance of the Chinese initiative One Belt, One Road, within which the Sofia Summit is being held, for Serbia is best shown by the fact that Chinese investments in Serbia, primarily in infrastructure, amount to more than EUR 5 billion, the minister says.
– Don’t forget Zelezara Smederevo and other current or future investments with China either. To us, it is of great importance to have a strategic agreement between China and Serbia – Mihajlovic said.
At the Sofia Summit, the memorandum on the reconstruction and the rehabilitation of the railway on Corridor 10, between Nis and Presevo (the Belgrade-Nis-Presevo-Macedonian border section) will be signed as well.
– In the past few years, the priority in the transport infrastructure has been primarily the railway. Corridors are being worked on, so are the highways, some of them are being completed, some new are being started, but the railway is the priority – Mihajlovic says.
The memorandum pertains to the railway between Belgrade and Nis and Nis and Presevo and is very important for Serbia, the minister notes, as “we do not have project-technical documentation for this railway corridor”.
– When there’s a high-speed railway up there in the north, from Belgrade to Budapest, we must complete the southern part, if we truly want to cooperate with other states – Mihajlovic explains.
The goal, she says, is for Serbia to be a transit state, primarily for cargo transport, and “the works on these sections of Corridor 10 might realistically begin in mid-2019”, Mihajlovic assesses.
Talking about the importance of Serbia in the 16+1 initiative and the summit in Bulgaria, she said that Serbia had the largest Chinese investments compared to other members of the initiative, both in the number and the value of the investments.
When asked what she thought of the criticism by certain EU officials regarding the potential negative impact of the strengthening of the Chinese influence in the Western Balkans and Serbia on the economies of member states, Mihajlovic said that it shouldn’t be forgotten that it was precisely Europe that had significant relations with both China and Russia and that Serbia was a small state, whose position requires of it to use all options available in order to develop.
– We have investments and credits from many international financial institutions, but also from the Russian Federation and China and I believe that any kind of closing of Serbia in that sense is not good – Mihajlovic says.
She notes that all contracts, whether with China or Russia, are in line with the laws and European standards.