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China, Montenegro and the EU, Tripartite Cooperation for Joint Benefits--Keynote Speech by Ambassador LIU Jin at the Seminar 'EU, China and Western Balkans: Challenges and Prospects for Future Integration'
2021-05-27 23:03

Honourable host,

Guests and friends,

It's my great pleasure to attend this seminar. Since there is a strong congruence between China Montenegro relations and China's relations with the West Balkans as a whole, as the Chinese Ambassador to Montenegro, I would like to briefly share my views on China,Montenegro and the EU relationship.

First, the relations between China and Montenegro are based on equality and mutual trust. China respects Montenegro's development strategy choice to join the EU.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 15 years ago, China and Montenegro have always respected each other and treated each other as equals, without any historical grudges or entanglements of real interests. China has never interfered in Montenegro's internal affairs and respects Montenegro's national development strategy of integration into the EU, while Montenegro also respects China's position on important issues concerning China's core interests, such as Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong affairs. This has laid a solid political foundation for healthy and steady progress in China- Montenegro relations.

It is the political consensus of leaders of China and Montenegro to promote the bilateral relations. President Đukanović attended the China-CEEC Summit upon the invitation of President Xi Jinping earlier this year, and yesterday the two leaders had an official telephone conversation in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between two countries. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Krivokapić maintains regular correspondence with Premier Li Keqiang. Since the beginning of the pandemic, China has been providing concrete assistance at the request of Montenegrin government, which showed its sincere support for the safety and health of the Montenegrin people and the recovery of its economy. China also has a long history of good cooperation with the EU and its member states, and is pleased to see Montenegro joins the Union, which will allow China-EU relations to become more diversified and dynamic.

Second, the relations between China and Montenegro are based on mutual benefit and win-win cooperation. The steady development of practical cooperation between the two countries is conducive to Montenegro's early accession to the EU.

In recent years, China and Montenegro have enjoyed fruitful practical cooperation which has brought tangible benefits to the people of both countries. China Montenegro cooperation focuses on the infrastructure, energy and environmental protection projects, aiming to help Montenegro unleash its economic potential, strengthen its connectivity with the Balkan region and the EU, and achieve green and sustainable development. These co-operations will undoubtedly boost the international community's confidence in Montenegro's development prospects and boost the country's accession process.

The cooperation between China and Montenegro also achieved tangible results within the framework of China-CEEC. For example, the priority section of the highway was once the largest concessional loan project within the framework of China-CEEC. The completion of the priority section has been delayed due to the pandemic, but the Chinese company is doing its utmost to push the project to completion as soon as possible.

This year's China-CEEC Summit initiates green development as one of the priorities for future cooperation. Montenegro is leading the China-CEEC environmental cooperation mechanism. And Montenegro recently had a working level discussion with China specifically on how to promote the mechanism. Cooperation projects between China and Montenegroin like the Možura wind farm and the ecological reconstruction of the thermal power plant in Pljevlja are both green projects that will facilitate Montenegro in approaching the EU standards on environmental protection.

Such cooperation fully embodies the principles of China-CEEC of cosultation, contribution, openness, inclusiveness, and innovation, which provides opportunities for the development of countries within the mechanism. China-CEEC is an important part of China-EU cooperation and is conducive to promoting the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership in an all-round and balanced way.

Of course, China Montenegro cooperation is far beyond the above-mentioned big projects. The two countries collaborate closely in various fields such as culture, education, tourism, sports, arts and health for the benefit of the two peoples. We are more than convinced that all cooperation fields will soon return to normal after the pandemic.

Third, the relations between China and Montenegro are based on openness and transparency. China has neither geopolitical ambitions for Montenegro and the Western Balkan in general, nor does it intend to compete with the EU for influence.

Confucius said, 'while a gentleman is open and composed, a mean man is always full of distress'. There are no hidden secrets in China Montenegro relations. China's cooperation with the Western Balkan countries is neither geopolitically motivated, nor poses any threat to national security of any country, nor imposes any political conditions, nor interferes in the internal affairs of any country, nor does it prevent the development of cooperative relations with other countries. Someone accuses China of not being transparent in its relations with Montenegro, their plausible arguments can be categorized into three following kinds.

Their first plausible argument is that Chinese loans led Montenegro into a so-called 'debt trap'. In this regard, I just want to ask three questions. Wasn't the China Exim Bank's loan with an interest rate of 2% preferential, and did any country or financial institution offer a better loan at that time? By the end of last year, the Chinese loan only accounted for 16.7 % of Montenegro's total debt, but why was it labelled as a trap, but not the loans from other parties? Is the recent media hype of so-called 'Chinese debt trap' and 'Montenegro's insolvency' merely a coincidence with Montenegro's increased cost of financing on international markets? Is it to the benefit or detriment of Montenegro?

Their second plausible argument is the so-called Chinese 'malign influence' on Montenegro. I have but one question to ask: China is far away from Montenegro, has never been involved in geopolitical conflicts in the Western Balkans, and never ever has any geopolitical ambitions for Montenegro and the Western Balkans. The Chinese embassy in Montenegro does not even have a normal Defence Attaché's Office. Chinese tourists, workers or businessmen who visit Montenegro for sightseeing, construction or business purposes, how can they have a negative impact on Montenegro? Neither the Montenegrin government, nor people from all walks of life have ever mentioned that China has had a negative impact on Montenegro's development, so where does this 'malign influence' come from?

Their third plausible argument is the construction of Chinese companies causes environmental problems. Has there ever been a mega infrastructure project that was really built without touching a single blade of grass or tree? Not to mention that the Chinese contractors have promised to restore the ecology. Environmental protection is a noble cause for the future development of mankind and should not be taken advantage of by some people as a tool for fabricating rumours or spreading disinformation.

Fourthly, the relationship between China and Montenegro is based on inclusive innovation. China and the EU have extensive scope and potential for cooperation in Montenegro and the Western Balkans.

Both China and Europe have nurtured ancient human civilisations. The vast Eurasian continent did not hinder the Silk Road 2000 years ago, nor did it scare Marco Polo away from taking adventures 700 years ago. Both examples demonstrated the impetus of mutual appreciation of civilisations between China and Europe. China is a socialist country, but different social systems should not be an obstacle to the development of relations between China and Europe. China and the EU should not be each other's systemic rivals, but comprehensive strategic partners. China, Montenegro and the EU all advocate multilateralism and free trade, the essence of which are inclusiveness, openness and innovation, and are inherently incompatible with closed and exclusive 'small circles'.

China's relations with Montenegro, West Balkans and the EU are complementary. From a broad perspective of the human development process, we should work together to build the Community of Shared Future for Mankind advocated by President Xi Jinping. During the epidemic, economic and trade relations between China and the EU have become increasingly close. Last year China became the EU's largest trading partner for the first time, while Montenegro's exports to China also increased about 30%. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. China has now effectively controlled the pandemic and brought its economic and social development back on track. China will continue to pursue a peaceful foreign policy and commit to a higher level of opening up to the world, which will bring new opportunities for Montenegro, West Balkans and the EU.

After the pandemic, the desire of West Balkans to promote economic and social development will become even more urgent. China is willing to work with the EU to help the development of the Western Balkans and is also ready to actively engage in tripartite cooperation in areas such as joint fight against the pandemic, infrastructure construction, green and digital economy for the continued benefits of the peoples of China, the EU and the Western Balkans.

Thank you for your attention!

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