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BRI projects bridge China-Europe cooperation amid COVID-19 pandemic

August 03, 2021


Abstract : The joy and excitement from the successful joining of the Peljesac Bridge on Wednesday night have not faded for many in Croatia, reconnectting the country's territories. It is a long-awaited bridge built together by a Chinese contractor and its European partners.

Photo taken on July 29, 2021 shows fireworks celebrating the successful connection of the Peljesac Bridge at Mali Ston Bay near Komarna of southern Croatia. (Ivo Cagalj/Pixsell via Xinhua)

"Tonight we have achieved a goal that solves a 300-year-old problem," Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said in his speech during a ceremony on the Peljesac Bridge built together by a Chinese contractor and its European partners.

By Xinhua writer Gao Lei

ZAGREB, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- The joy and excitement from the successful joining of the Peljesac Bridge on Wednesday night have not faded for many in Croatia, reconnectting the country's territories. It is a long-awaited bridge built together by a Chinese contractor and its European partners.

The 2.4-km cable-stayed bridge over the Mali Ston Bay of the Adriatic Sea connects Croatian mainland and the Peljesac Peninsula of its southernmost Dubrovnik-Neretva County, bypassing a short strip of Bosnian and Herzegovina's territory, giving Croatia its territorial continuity and traffic convenience. It will be open to traffic in 2022 when all relevant constructions are finished.

RELIABLE CONTRACTORS

A Chinese consortium led by China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) won the bid to build the first phase of the Peljesac Bridge and its access roads in 2018, with a promise to finish the job in 36 months.

"The CRBC performed a marvelous job. We are now witnessing a physical linkage of the bridge three months ahead of the planned deadline despite the COVID-19 (pandemic), and the difficulties in the transport from China to Croatia. I think it is a fantastic achievement," Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told Xinhua at the construction site on the Peljesac Peninsula.

Photo taken on July 28, 2021 shows the final piece of steel box girder being lifted at Mali Ston Bay near Komarna of southern Croatia. (Grgo Jelavic/Pixsell via Xinhua)

The prime minister and hundreds of others waited patiently until after midnight on Thursday for the joining of the final bridge part and a grand celebration that followed.

"Tonight we have achieved a goal that solves a 300-year-old problem," Plenkovic said in his speech during the ceremony on the newly-built bridge.

"It is a fascinating strategic achievement of the Croatian people and state and a picture of modern sovereignty that defines how to achieve strategic national interests and what has been the goal of the Croatian people and state for years," he said.

BENEFICIAL PARTNERSHIP

On May 27, Hungary inaugurated the country's largest solar power plant, which was built by China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC) near the country's southwestern city of Kaposvar.

"The government of Hungary was supportive of our goal from the start, even though our project with 100MW capacity might have seemed too grandiose to some people back then, when the average size of a solar power plant was less than one MW," said CMC Chairman Kang Hubiao.

The supportive attitude of the Hungarian government dates back to 2010, Hungary's Minister for Innovation and Technology Laszlo Palkovics explained to Xinhua, saying that the Hungarian government introduced its "Eastern Opening" policy in 2010 with China as its main actor.

Photo taken on May 27, 2021 shows the Kaposvar solar power plant in Kaposvar, Hungary. (Photo by Attila Volgyi/Xinhua)

The opening of the Kaposvar solar power plant is crucial to reaching Hungary's carbon-neutral goal, as the production of electricity in the country should fully come from clean sources by 2030, Palkovics noted.

The plant, worth around 100 million euros (122 million U.S. dollars), is expected to produce 130 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and help Hungary reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions by about 120,000 tonnes each year.

In 2010 when China's COSCO Shipping took over the management of Piraeus container terminal, the site was rather quiet for the largest port in Greece in a geostrategic position in the Mediterranean Sea.

Today, it has been expanded, upgraded, linked to the railway and the image of huge new cranes uploading numerous containers on vessels docked here has become a modern, iconic image of Piraeus.

In 2010, container handling in Piraeus totaled 880,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent units (TEUs), while it reached 5.4 million TEUs last year despite the challenges of COVID-19. Sino-Greek collaboration here is an exemplary success story of win-win partnership also in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

"It (Piraeus port project) has prospered very much for Greece, but it also has been very useful for both in relations between China and Europe as it is now a major trading hub, transportation hub for goods both ways," former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou told Xinhua in a recent interview.

FAIR PLAY

Greece enjoys the benefits of its healthy relationship with China in the context of the BRI and will continue cooperation on this path, Spiros Lambridis, Greece's permanent representative to NATO, has said.

"At this point all that we are getting out of this is the benefits of a healthy and very legitimate commercial relationship," he said in an interview with CNBC in June, pointing to the large and successful case of bilateral collaboration under the BRI in Greece -- Chinese COSCO Shipping's investment project at the Piraeus Port.

Aerial photo taken on Feb. 15, 2019 shows the COSCO Shipping Pisces approaching Piraeus port, Greece. (Xinhua/Wu Lu)

"The Chinese squarely and openly won the commercial part of the Piraeus port ... Now Piraeus has become again, due to the investment and the national efforts, the first biggest port of the Mediterranean," Lambridis stressed.

"The Chinese consortium had the best offer under the public procurement process that the Croatian Roads organized, and I don't see why this project wouldn't be an excellent reference for CRBC for future tenders across the member states of the European Union," Plenkovic told Xinhua.

"I think this is a fantastic project that is bringing closer not only two parts of the territory of Croatia ... but also the project brings together three actors: Croatia, European Union, because it's co-financed by the EU funds, and China," the prime minister added.

(Yu Shuaishuai in Athens, Yuan Liang in Budapest, Zhang Xiuzhi in Sarajevo, and Shi Zhongyu in Belgrad also contributed to the story.)

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