New association suggests that, as the EU and US increasingly distance themselves from China, Serbia is locking itself more deeply in a long-term strategic relationship with Beijing.
Serbia and China have established an Association for Promotion of the Economy, Trade, Culture and Tourism. This association has been formed in line with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and Serbia is committed to global development initiatives started by China, Serbian Culture Minister Maja Gojkovic said at the opening ceremony.
In the last ten years, more than 50 activities have been realized within the scope of the Belt and Road Initiative, mainly as part of festivals, fairs and forums, she noted.
“Based on these successful events, we continue to strengthen the basis of our cooperation. We adopted a medium-term action plan for implementation of the Belt and Road initiative; in the field of protection of cultural heritage we signed the Agreement on the Prevention of Theft, Secret Excavations and Illegal Import and Export of Cultural Goods; we plan to develop cooperation with the provinces of the PR China, starting from their most recognizable cultural capacities,” Gojkovic added.
Part of the Belt and Road Initiative also involves boosting cooperation with the Chinese Cultural Centre in Belgrade and the work of its Serbian counterpart in Bejing. Gojkovic said the Ministry of Culture had adopted a program with 20 projects for the Serbian centre in Bejing.
Serbia and China signed a free trade deal at the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in October 2023.
During the same event, Serbia and China also signed: an action plan to implement the initiative until 2025; a memorandum on cooperation in the field of economic development; an agreement on the appointment of the Bank of China as a clearing bank for the yuan exchange; three commercial contracts with Chinese companies on transport infrastructure; an agreement on the harmonisation of apple exports from Serbia; and a commercial contract on the third phase of modernisation of the fixed network in Serbia.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative has had a large impact in the Balkans. An analysis by BIRN in 2021 said at least 61 projects were in various stages of completion in Serbia that had been, or were being implemented by, or in cooperation with, Chinese entities over a decade, worth at least 18.7 billion euros.
According to BIRN’s estimate, at the end of 2021, 135 projects worth at least 32 billion euros in the Balkan region were linked to China in some way.