China’s CRBC eyes new projects in Serbia

China’s CRBC eyes new projects in Serbia
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia March 6, 2019

China’s CRBC is interested in more infrastructure projects in Serbia, the infrastructure ministry said in a statement on March 6.

The Chinese company has already won several infrastructure contracts in the country, which has become an important destination for Chinese investment, especially in the infrastructure sector. 

In April, CRBC is expected to launch the construction of a 30.9 km motorway section linking Preljina to Pozega, under a €450mn agreement signed with China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), the parent of CRBC. 

The Chinese company is also interested in the Fruskogorski Corridor road project in northern Serbia, Fei said, the ministry said in a statement.

The €400mn Fruskogorski Corridor will link pan-European transport corridors X and IV on the territory of Serbia's northern autonomous region of Vojvodina. The project is an upgrade of the Novi Sad-Ruma section of the IB-21 road.

In July 2018, at the seventh summit of heads of government of China and Central and Eastern European countries, Serbia signed a memorandum of understanding with China for the overhaul of railway sections that are part of Corridor X.

The country has also granted CRBC a contract for the construction of an industrial park in the Belgrade suburb of Borca. CRBC will invest €220mn in the construction of the industrial park. Investments by companies that set up facilities in the park are expected to reach €2bn, the government said in a statement. The industrial park will be built on 320 hectares of land and is expected to attract around 1,000 Chinese companies, creating 10,000 new jobs.

Serbia and other Southeast European countries are part of the growing network of transport corridors between China and Europe that Beijing has been actively seeking to develop, especially since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (originally One Belt, One Road). 

The Balkan region is part of Beijing’s efforts to create a fast lane for importing and exporting products between China and Europe, as it is on the transit route between the Greek port of Piraeus, owned by China’s Cosco, and Central Europe.

In addition, major Chinese engineering companies are increasingly seeking construction projects overseas, as China’s growth has slowed in recent years. The EU-aspiring Western Balkans countries, as well as EU members in Central European such as the Czech Republic, have been an important source of contracts, among them, controversially, the construction of several coal-fired power plants in the Western Balkans. 

Arguably the most significant Chinese funded project in Serbia is the modernisation and reconstruction of the Belgrade-Budapest high-speed rail link, for which the two countries signed a €943mn commercial agreement for the Serbian part of the line last July. 

The 350km rail link is expected to cut travel time between Budapest and Belgrade from the current eight hours to less than three. The route will run 184km across Serbia and 166km across Hungary and passenger trains will travel at 160km per hour.