Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Reflex: Czech president wants China to pay water corridor

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Table of Contents

Prague, March 27 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman wants the visit of China’s President Xi Jinping to result in the financing of the Danube-Oder-Elbe water corridor, a huge construction project Zeman would like to turn into his memorial, Bohumil Pecinka writes in the latest issue of weekly Reflex.
He says people around Zeman are nervously awaiting whether Xi Jinping will support the project or not, as his is the key decision in China.
Paradoxically, Xi Jinping’s visit to the Czech Republic is one of the most secret diplomatic events. Neither the Czech Presidential Office, nor the Foreign Affairs Ministry, nor big Czech companies talk about the goals of the visit very much, which seems odd since Zeman said the signing of contracts for an equivalent of nearly two billion dollars was planned, Pecinka writes.
The Chinese have invested about 50 million dollars in the Czech Republic, while in Portugal, a country of a similar size, it has been more than two billion dollars so far. There are business opportunities, but there is no need to overestimate them, Pecinka says.
According to backstage information, contracts are concluded to the latest moment and nobody knows whether all of them will be signed and to what extent.
When Zeman was Czech prime minister at the turn of the century, he did not show much interest in the project connecting in Czech territory the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. It were builder Josef Podzimek and former economy minister Miroslav Gregr who made him an ardent promoter of the water project, Pecinka writes.
He says a story told by a friend of Zeman illustrates this well: the friend asked Zeman in late 2012, shortly before the latter was elected president, why he was praising the European Union all the time and Zeman told him it was because he wanted EU subsidies for the Danube-Oder-Elbe project.
When Zeman became the head of state, he found out that the EU listed the project among crucial waterways already in 1993, but due to the laxness of Czech transport ministers the project could not claim EU subsidies anymore, Pecinka says.
Zeman’s first success was that the new government of Bohuslav Sobotka promised to conduct a feasibility study in early 2014, but nothing more happened so far. The Transport Ministry is far from enthusiastic about the project and the feasibility study was ordered only a few months ago, Pecinka writes.
But the Presidential Office has been working hard, both on the technical level and on seeking sponsors. Zeman’s aide for water works Petr Forman organised a meeting of regional coordinators of the Danube-Oder-Elbe project on March 10.
A few days later Zeman discussed the project with Polish President Andrzej Duda and it was no formal talk. In the past several weeks, Poland established a new ministry of maritime economy and inland navigation whose priority is the renewal and construction of waterways, especially of the Oder waterway, which is part of the Danube-Oder-Elbe corridor, Pecinka writes.
Zeman entrusted his aide Martin Nejedly with finding an investor for the project. When Russia failed, he addressed Chinese investment groups that visited the Czech Republic several times. One of them is Sinohydro Corporation Ltd that wrote a letter to Prime Minister Sobotka, telling him that it dealt with this project. Another candidate is the CGGC company that built the giant Three Gorges Dam. All these groups and interests should meet during Xi Jinping’s trip to Prague, Pecinka writes.
But why would the Chinese invest into a project that would not bring them immediate profit? he says.
The Chinese considers the Czech Republic to be the country that is the most open to their interests in Central and East Europe and they want to make a big strategic investment here in order to gain a business base for their politics, Pecinka indicates.
Beijing chose Prague to be the base for its cooperation with the countries of Central and East Europe (the so-called 16+1) two years ago, he writes.
Now firms are fighting for the possible strategic investment. The main sponsors of Zeman were from big industrial companies and construction firms to whom Zeman promised to open the door to Russia. After the Russian economy declined, Zeman tried to push his sponsors through in China, to which his two official visits contributed, Pecinka writes.
The Chinese feel that Zeman needs to be rewarded for his supportive gestures, but it is hesitating to the last moment because it fear that the money invested into the water corridor might be wasted. Will Zeman persuade them to build his memorial? Pecinka concludes.

most viewed

Subscribe Now