China has formally invited Bulgaria to join together with Turkey a project for a high-speed railway connection from the Far East to Europe.
The invitation resulted from talks in Beijing between Bulgarian Transport Minister Alexander Tsvetkov and China's Minister of Transport Li Shenglin, Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun, and leading Chinese railway companies, the press service of the Bulgarian Transport Ministry announced.
The Ministry said the Bulgarian government is going to take part in trilateral talks with China and Turkey on the high-speed China-Europe rail. After that, in December 2010, the three countries are expected to sign a trilateral cooperation agreement on freight rail services.
The transport authorities of Bulgaria and China have also decided to set up a bilateral contact group "because there is a strong interest on part of China," the Transport Ministry announced.
Tsvetkov also presented Bulgaria as a destination for investments in transport infrastructure to journalists from Radio China, Radio Beijing, and the English-language paper Economy Daily News.
The news about China's luring Bulgaria into the high-speed Asia-Europe rail project comes after on Wednesday Tsvetkov invited his counterpart Li Shenglin on part of the People's Republic of China to consider investment opportunities in the field of transport and infrastructure.
Bulgaria and China are considering setting up a joint venture for sea port infrastructure as well as offering concessions of Bulgarian sea and river ports to Chinese companies.
"China is a first-rate partner of Bulgaria. Bulgaria is in the position to offer maximum good conditions to port operators. We believe that the Bulgarian ports can be attractive enough to compete with the routes of Central and Eastern Asia," Tsvetkov told Li Shenglin, as cited by the press service of the Transport Ministry.
The visit of the Bulgarian government delegation in China comes in the wake of several months of intensive contacts between the Bulgarian government and Chinese central and provincial authorities as well as companies on various potential joint projects such as the Bozhurishte Industrial Zone near Sofia.
Bulgaria's Economy Minister Traicho Traikov has stated several times that China was interest in receiving concessions over Bulgarian airport and ports in order to use them as a base for its exports to the EU and wider Europe.
As soon as Transport Minister Tsvetkov's visit to China was first announced, the Bulgarian government made it clear it would focus on considering options for long-term cooperation between the Freight Directorate of the Bulgarian state railway company BDZ and Chinese railway operators in the context of China's project to launch a railway connection to Central and Western Europe through Central Asia, Turkey, and Bulgaria, the so called China-Europe high-speed rail link.