Green bond with CEECs a big opportunity
Potential exists for cooperation with China in public goods domains such as waste disposal, transport, medical care
For 48-year-old Bulgarian entrepreneur Despodov Desislav Dimitrov, the picturesque eastern Chinese city of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, where he has just set up a new company, means much more than just the starting point of a new business.
This port city, featuring bustling cargo shipments and booming commerce between China and Central and Eastern European countries and beyond, is the beginning of a promising voyage for many dreamers.
Thriving green partnership
Dimitrov's new company specializes in providing quality bio-packaging solutions that are starch-based, plastic-free and nontoxic to the environment. The market potential for eco-friendly lifestyles in China has made his green business possible.
"Green development is the future; that is why I chose to do biomaterials engineering. Like Bulgaria, China is also committed to ecological development, so there is broad space to tap into for cooperation," said Dimitrov.
His words ring true, considering Bulgaria is one of Europe's biodiversity hot spots with a dazzling array of flora and fauna, and habitat varieties. The country, in southeastern Europe, with a coastline on the Black Sea, encompasses three main biogeographic regions — alpine, coastal and continental. In recent years, the fallout of environmental crises has been felt acutely across Europe, particularly in urban areas.
Underscoring the "enormous opportunities" in renewable energy cooperation with China, a leader in the area of photovoltaics, Zahari Zahariev, chairman of the Bulgaria National Association for the Belt and Road, said that in Bulgaria there is potential for further cooperation with China in domains related to public goods, such as waste disposal, transport and medical care.
On the construction of waste processing plants, the expert said: "This is a sector in which Bulgaria lags behind but in which China has huge successes. And … in addition to recycling, it is also directly related to energy production, of course."
There is great potential for cooperation between Slovakia and China in the electric car industry and green energy, as China takes the lead in the development and production of new energy vehicles. Slovakia boasts the necessary brainpower, Pavol Antalic, chairman of the Slovak-Chinese Joint Business Council, said.
Take solar panel recycling as an example. Antalic has visited factories in China that are recycling solar panels. These plants are "the next best investment opportunity" as solar panels reach the end of their life span after a period of 10 to 20 years, he said.
"Bosnia-Herzegovina has broad prospects for cooperation with China and other CEECs in energy, infrastructure, green economic transformation and clean energy. We envision more cooperation projects in the future," said Zdravko Marinkovic, president of the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Addressing the China-CEEC Mayors Forum in Ningbo on May 17, Cristian Apostol, vice-president of Romania's Prahova County Council, said that China will always play a very important role in green sector investments, and there is broad room for green cooperation between the two sides, including reducing carbon footprint through modernizing infrastructure and developing the green energy sector through electric cars.
Neyko Genchev, vice-mayor of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, said the local government has been committed to a recycling economy, handling waste as a resource for the economy by turning them into raw materials for manufacturing.
China, he noted, has created millions of "green jobs" in its economy in the past few years, and has gone from a country where renewable energy was almost nonexistent to one of the leading nations in renewable projects in just a decade.
Genchev underlined the sharply lower cost of solar power, wind power, and of batteries for electric vehicles in Chinese gigafactories, which he believes will underpin China's crucial role in reducing the global cost of clean energy production.
Prospects for cooperation
Over the years, China and CEECs have inked a number of deals on green cooperation, and the dimensions for cooperation have increasingly broadened. In 2021, China and CEEC jointly marked the China-CEEC Year of Green Development and Environmental Protection as an opportunity to deepen exchange and cooperation in green economy, clean energy and other related areas.
Government officials, entrepreneurs, experts and scholars have agreed that green partnership represents a new growth point and key highlight for broader and more practical bilateral cooperation, and is where interests from both sides converge greatly. The two sides complement each other in new energy, smart manufacturing and intelligent transportation, among other areas.
Marko Selakovic, advisor to the mayor of Kragujevac, Serbia, believes "the sky is the limit" for China-CEEC green cooperation. "We have room for huge development. It might be trade, it might be joint development of innovative solutions for the benefit of the citizens. It might be bringing in different green technologies, it might also be the exchange of good knowledge, good expertise and good innovations. It might be an academic partnership. It might be investment."
Green, sustainable development has now leapt from the sphere of green materials to that of green manufacturing, green lifestyles and greener cities. Practical cooperation can start from joint research in science and technology as well as the nurturing of talents in green partnership, experts say.
"I hope that from now on, once we have, let's say, exchanged our data, and we know much better of one another, we can create an exchange of our scientists. We can create bilateral, scientific projects and so on," Milena Dukanovic, a professor of the College of Electrical Engineering at the University of Montenegro, told Xinhua.
Dukanovic said that she is currently heading one scientific project in the area of cyber and data security with an information center in Beijing, and another one with Changsha University and Changsha University of Science & Technology.
"This would be an opportunity to start a project with universities in Ningbo … Tomorrow, we will visit the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. We will see which areas we have potential to work on," she said.