China's COSCO eyes main Croatian port

Chinese shipping giant COSCO is interested in investing in Croatia's main Adriatic port of Rijeka, a top company official said on Monday after meeting Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic.

"It is interesting for us in terms of (getting a) concession" to manage Rijeka port, on the northern Adriatic coast, COSCO chairman Wei Jiafu told national radio in comments translated into Croatian.

He spoke after a COSCO delegation met with Milanovic to discuss their interest in Rijeka which they hope could serve as China's main link with central Europe and significantly shorten transport time for Chines products destined for the region.

Milanovic pledged that his government would do all it could to "remove obstacles to (Chinese) investments," referring notably to Croatia's complicated and lengthy administrative procedures.

"So far there were a lot of talks (between the two sides), now is the right time to put them into action," he said in a statement.

Apart from investing in Rijeka, COSCO was also interested in a railway linking the port via the capital Zagreb with the Hungarian border, radio quoted Transport Minister Sinisa Hajdas Doncic as saying.

The link would require investment of some three billion euros ($3.9 billion) while enlargement of the existing Rijeka port is estimated at between 500 million and one billion euros, he said.

China is Croatia's leading commercial partner outside Europe, accounting for around 4.6 percent of the country's global trade.

Last year, Croatia's exports to China amounted to 28 million euros while imports totalled one billion euros.

There have not been any Chinese investments in Croatia so far but that is likely to chance as Zagreb is due to enter the European Union next year.

Croatia's economy was in recession for most of the past three years.

The World Bank recently urged the former Yugoslav republic to stimulate investment if it wanted to achieve economic growth.

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