PM says Czech Republic could be China-EU transport hub

Photo: Calvin Teo, CC BY-SA 2.5

Speaking at a seminar on Czech-Chinese cooperation held in the Czech Senate on Tuesday Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stressed the importance his country attached to developing and deepening business ties with China. Mr. Sobotka said he would like to see the Czech Republic become a transport hub between China and Europe and invited Chinese banks to set up their European headquarters in Prague.

Photo: Calvin Teo,  CC BY-SA 2.5
Ever since the Czech Republic and China agreed to reset relations in 2014, contacts between the two countries leaders have intensified with the Czech president and prime minister travelling to Beijing to set a framework for closer business relations. The ground has been paved and the prime minister said he now hoped to see those efforts bear fruit in the areas of infrastructure, industry, and engineering and others. Already last year the Bank of China set up a branch in Prague and Chinese firms invested the equivalent of 10 billion crowns into Czech companies. Chinese investors now own a 50 percent share in Prague’s football club Slavia, the company Travel Service, they have invested in Czech media and the Lobkowitz breweries.

Prime Minister Sobotka has set his sights higher, saying his country could serve as a key transport hub between Europe and China and inviting Chinese banks to set up their European headquarters in Prague. The Czech Republic has expressed strong interest in partaking in China’s ambitious “One Belt,One Road” or New Silk Road project and the country has high hopes of becoming a regional centre for Chinese investment in Europe.

A memorandum signed in Beijing late last year opens the way for bilateral cooperation in a vast number of areas among them infrastructure, nuclear energy, car manufacturing, aircraft production, and engineering. It also looks to boost cooperation in research and development, nanotechnology, laser technology and biotechnology.

Along with new business opportunities the Czech Republic has been working to boost its transport links with China – direct flights between Prague and Beijing were established in 2015 and a direct air-link between Prague and Shanghai is being set up this year. Talks about yet another air link with China are still underway. Other projects in the pipeline include the setting up of a Centre of Chinese Studies at Charles University and a Centre of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Hradec Kralove.

Addressing the seminar, the Chinese Ambassador to the Czech Republic Ma Kequing said China considers the Czech Republic one of its most important investment destinations in Europe. She said her country would fulfil the memorandum on cooperation and make use of the potential it offered, highlighting particularly the areas car and aircraft manufacturing, engineering and nanotechnology.