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Remarks by H.E. Mr. Xu Jian, Ambassador of China to Poland at PISM-CIIS Seminar Road to Riga:New Ideas for China-Central Europe Enhanced Cooperation

It gives me pleasure to meet with you and share ideas on the occasion of the 5th China-CEEC Leaders Meeting, the Riga Summit.

The 16+1 cooperation is getting increasingly enriched and mature with a long list of deliverables in recent years. It was an innovative initiative 4 years ago, but is a well-established brand now. From Warsaw to Bucharest, from Belgrade to Suzhou, the common documents issued at the previous 4 summits have proposed over 150 cooperation measures or projects, most have already been carried out. Last year, The 16+1 Medium-Term Agenda for Cooperation was adopted, setting out directions and priorities for the cooperation from 2015 to 2020. While 16+1 cooperation is growing at a faster pace, this year's Riga Summit is calling for higher expectation.

16+1 cooperation has its features and highlights, which make it important and special. One distinct feature is that it institutionalizes the cooperation. At the top is the annual summit. Now we have not only the Secretariat, National Coordinators' Meeting, Local Leaders' Meeting, but also associations on sectoral cooperation, Ministerial Meeting on Promoting Trade and Economic Cooperation, Economic and Trade Forum, expos and fairs. Together they offer a multi-level platform for wide-ranging cooperation. The second feature is that the cooperation is extensive and practical. It covers projects of infrastructure, trade and investment, transportation, tourism, agriculture, people-to-people exchanges, and so on. In this way, 16+1 opens up a new vista of more dynamic and promising bilateral relations between China and 16 CEE countries. And there are highlights in the cooperation. Demonstrative projects, like the Belgrade-Budapest railway project, China-Europe land-sea express line, Adriatic-Baltic-Black sea seaport cooperation, are the most prominent ones. They are setting fine examples for future cooperation.

The Riga Summit will be one for more advanced and expanded cooperation, and it will have some Baltic characteristics. The idea of holding the Summit in a Baltic country is in itself an expression of balanced development, equality and mutual benefit of 16+1 cooperation.

While talking about the future of 16+1, there are a few points we need to pay special attention to.

First is policy coordination. 16+1 format is not only a combination of 16 bilateral relations, but also a supplement to China-EU relations. It should be compatible with the development strategies of 17 countries and serve the growth of China-EU cooperation as well. In addition, as China has signed MOU with 7 CEE countries on the Belt and Road Initiative cooperation, 16+1 shall also be a platform for building the Belt and Road in CEE region.

Second is to improve connectivity and have some major projects well implemented. That is to tap the market potential of CEE by making good use of its geographical advantage. We have to focus on the infrastructure and industrial capacity projects we already have, like the Belgrade-Budapest railway, as they represent real work that could be seen and felt to bring real benefits. It is also necessary to keep developing China-Europe rail links, expand civil aviation cooperation and explore new projects about infrastructure, industrial parks and ports.

Third is to expand the scope of cooperation and address financial constraints. More attention should be paid to local cooperation and SME cooperation if we want to boost trade and investment. Moreover, we have to innovate investment and financial cooperation. Besides the 10 billion dollars special loans and the investment cooperation fund, we're working on establishing a 16+1 finance company and pushing for its early operation, in order to support projects between member states through business means.

Since its very beginning, the 16+1 cooperation takes people-to-people exchanges as one of the most important agenda. This year is the "year of 16+1 people-to-people and cultural exchanges". As an important vehicle for pooling wisdom and ideas, think tanks can play a unique role in 16+1. You could take the lead in theoretical exploration, promote exchange of ideas, and become good advisors to governments and enterprises.

Finally, I would like to raise a few questions for us to think about. While China and CEE countries are speeding up structural reforms and expanding cooperation with the outside world, how to coordinate our policies and meet our needs? How to make the 16+1 format more adaptable, to have more balanced cooperation and more projects in CEE countries? How to make the cooperation more innovative and more comprehensive?

I hope this seminar could be very pragmatic, focus on needs, problems and solutions, and give us some valuable thoughts and inspiration.

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