Slovenian President Borut Pahor met with the First Deputy Prime Minister of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Zhang Gaoli. The parties discussed new opportunities for Slovenian-Chinese cooperation as part of the large-scale Great Silk Road project implementation by China.
Gaoli has become one of the most influential PRC officials who have visited Slovenia for all 25 years of the diplomatic relations between these two countries.
Slovenia on the Chinese Silk Road
Borut Pahor and Zhang Gaoli discussed the issues of interstate cooperation and agreed that the relations between the two countries are excellent. Pahor has stressed that China is Slovenia’s leading trade partner in Asia and noted that visits at such a high level open up new prospects for cooperation in economic and other spheres. The Head of Slovenia has also stated that he stands in favour of mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Slovenia.
Slovenia is an important player in the huge international project One Belt, One Road (OBOR) launched by the President of the Republic of China Xi Jinping in 2013. The project is aimed at the development of the economies of the countries located along the new silk route running from Asia through Northern Africa to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
The new Chinese Silk Road is, first of all, a large-scale transport and infrastructure project. China has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to participate in the modernization of the Luka Koper port and the network of railways in Slovenia. Chinese capital is also predominantly involved into acquisition of the Airport of Maribor. However, the political price of such investments for Slovenia is still too high. As can be seen from the informal conversation with the President Borut Pahor, who, in his memorable off the record interview, while still in the status of prime minister, complained that the Chinese Government offered up to 10 billion euros for the Slovenske železnice Company and was ready to lay rail tracks for the high-speed railways. However, only on the condition that China itself would implement the whole project — from designing to the stage of construction.
China Expands its Diplomatic Presence
The Government of Miro Cerar has a positive attitude to Chinese investment. Cerar met with the Prime Minister of China Li Keqiang during the meeting of the country leaders participating in the 16+1 project, which this year for the first time has been held in China. Cerar has expressed full support for the project and noted that the Government does not set special conditions for Chinese investors if they invest in accordance with the EU legislation. The bilateral trade between the two countries in 2015 amounted to 906 million euros, and in 2016, according to preliminary data, it exceeded 1 billion euros. Chinese economic and diplomatic activity in Slovenia in the coming years is likely to increase significantly. According to unofficial data from diplomatic circles, China plans to seriously expand the staff of its embassy in Ljubljana.