Activities - Comments

Živadin Jovanović, President of the Belgrade Forum for a World of Equals, took part in the conference on cooperation of port cities in the implementation of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, held on December 5-9, 2017, in the port city of Tianjin, in the northeast of China. The Conference was attended by a hundred representatives from 37 countries of Asia, Europe, Americas, Africa and Australia. The ranks of participants included, most notably, former prime ministers George Andreas Papandreou of Greece, Dominique de Villepin of France, Massimo D'Alema of Italy, and other prominent personalities.

The Conference produced an initiative to establish the Association of Port Cities along the Belt and Road, whose mission will be to coordinate and strengthen the roles of maritime cities and ports as well as ports on inland waterways. Several Chinese and foreign participants emphasized in their interventions the important and constructive role that Serbia plays in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative as a global, multidimensional development project. Chinese representatives have in particular stressed the importance of the beginning of the construction of the Belgrade-Budapest high-speed railway as a strategic cross-border project which contributes to the efficiency of operation of the China-Europe continental/maritime express line, via the Port of Piraeus in Greece.

Živadin Jovanović made a point that 23 documents on mutual cooperation, including declaration on development of comprehensive strategic relations between Serbia and China, have been signed during the state visit Chinese President Xi Jinping made to Serbia in 2016. Jovanović went on to indicate Serbia’s important role in economic and cultural integration of China, Asia and Europe, implemented both at the bilateral level and in the format of China + 16 Central and Eastern European countries. According to him, the Chinese-Serbian projects have already amounted to $ 6 billion in value, while the volume of the investment, economic and cultural cooperation between the two keeps increasing at a rapid pace. Further, Jovanović touched upon significance of the Danube waterway, as a strategic European traffic route, which extends for 588 kilometres through Serbia and which practically connects the Mediterranean with the North and the Baltic Seas, through the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal network.

When dwelling on the prospects of future cooperation in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative, Jovanović underlined the importance of developing 2 industrial parks, both on the Danube. One is located in Smederevo, city in which Chinese corporation “Hesteel” already owns the Iron & Steel Factory with 5,200 employees, and the other is in the immediate vicinity of the “Mihajlo Pupin” Bridge, built and commissioned by Chinese companies in 2014, on an entry road to Belgrade. He recalled that Serbia hosts the seat of the Association for Infrastructure and Transport, within the China+16 CEEC format, and proposed to further explore the possibilities of China's participation in the modernization of the Danube waterway (in terms of safety, logistics, cleaning, access infrastructure), and in the 3 Rivers (Danube, Morava, Vardar) multidimensional development project. Elaborating on coordination and expansion of ports along the Belt and Road, Jovanović focused on importance of coordination of the new Association of Port Cities, initiated in Tianjin, with the existing Three Seas (Adriatic, Black, Baltic Seas) Maritime Ports Cooperation Project, which was verified in 2016 at the China+16 Summit held in Riga, Latvia, with the seat in Warsaw.

In his talks with representatives of the City of Tianjin (population of 15 million), potentials were explored for the twinning of Tianjin and either Belgrade or Novi Sad, both of which are major ports on the Danube River.

Belgrade, December 20, 2017.