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Hungary becomes first EU country to join China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”

(Source: Agencies-Global Times, 2015-06-07)

On February 13, 2014, President Xi Jinping met with Hungarian Prime Minister Orban Viktor at the Great Hall of the People. (www.fmprc.gov.cn)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R) and visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shake hands during a meeting in the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary on June 6, 2015. (Attila Volgyi/Xinhua)

Hungary has become the first European country to sign a cooperation agreement for China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative to develop trade and transport infrastructure across Asia and beyond, China’s foreign ministry said over the weekend.

The two countries’ foreign ministers signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the economic initiative in Budapest, according to a statement posted Sunday on the website of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The MOU, which aims to strengthen bilateral cooperation in building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, is said to be the first such document China has ever signed with a European country.

China welcomes more European countries to look East, and strengthen cooperation with China and other Asian countries, and participate in the “One Belt, One Road” in various ways, Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, said in the statement.

The "One Belt, One Road" initiative was proposed by ­ Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visited ­ Central Asia and Southeast Asia in ­September and October 2013.

Xi said during the Boao Forum for Asia in March this year that he hoped China's annual trade with the countries involved in the initiative would surpass $2.5 trillion in a decade.

Hungary hopes to closely cooperate with China and push on with the Hungarian-Serbia railway and other major construction projects, Hungarian President Janos Ader was quoted as saying in the statement.

In November 2013, China reached an agreement with Hungary and Serbia to jointly build a railway between the latter two countries, which is seen as a landmark in cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries.

The three countries, together with Macedonia, also signed a customs clearance agreement in December 2014, aiming to facilitate transportation of goods once the rail line is completed.

Hungary is the top destination for Chinese investors in the CEE region, and so far businesses with at least some ­Chinese ownership had invested $3 billion in the country, the Xinhua News Agency reported on May 4.

Projects under the “One Belt, One Road” initiative include a network of railways, oil and gas pipelines, power grids, Internet networks and other infrastructure links across Central, West and South Asia to as far as Greece, Russia and Oman, increasing China's connections to Europe and Africa.