On 6 June 2018, Andrejs Pildegovičs, the State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, took part in the Meeting of National Coordinators for cooperation in the Eastern and Central Europe-China format (16+1) in Sofia, Bulgaria. The meeting was chaired by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Bulgaria, Georg Georgiev, and the Vice Foreign Minister of China, Wang Chao.
The aim of the event was to discuss preparations for the seventh Meeting of Heads of Government of CEEC-China to be held in Sofia on 7 July. The participants also considered the summit’s final document – the Sofia Declaration. The State Secretary was presented with an invitation from the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov to the Prime Minister of Latvia, Māris Kučinskis, to take part in the summit.
The State Secretary confirmed that Latvia regarded China as an important partner in cooperation, and the 16+1 format was seen as a good instrument for cooperation with China, which complements not only Latvia’s bilateral dialogue with that country and other countries in the format but also the overall strategic dialogue between the EU and China. He voiced hope that progress would be made in negotiations on the EU-China investment protection agreement, which would eventually be signed. Andrejs Pildegovičs emphasised that “we are actively cooperating in various frameworks – both in “16+1” and the Baltic and Nordic format, NB8, which is evidenced by the successful joint visit by NB8 speakers to China this past January”.
Latvia’s priorities in the 16+1 format is cooperation in the transport sector, attraction of investments to infrastructure projects, promotion of contacts in trade and tourism, and student and teacher exchanges. The State Secretary noted that the China-CEEC Secretariat on logistics cooperation had been functioning in Riga since 2016 and invited all the countries to actively engage in its work. He also reiterated that Latvia was prepared to host a high level 16+1 conference on tourism cooperation in 2019.
State Secretary Andrejs Pildegovičs is the national coordinator for Latvia in CEEC-China cooperation.
Latvia has been active in the format since its inception in 2012. Figures for both economic and tourism contacts with China have increase over this period, and the number of Chinese students in Latvia is also on the rise. Since 2012, the import-export ratio has improved from 1:8 to 1:3 in 2017. The number of visitors from China has grown sixfold: from 3666 to 22 774 in 2017. In the 2017-2018 academic year, 66 Chinese students are attending Latvia’s higher education institutions, which is by 24 students more than the previous year.
The Central and Eastern European countries cooperating with China in the “16+1” format are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
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