Piraeus ambitions one step closer as China signs Balkan bullet train deal

China signed a huge deal on Wednesday to finance a high-speed bullet train between Budapest and Belgrade, a key link in Beijing’s expanding network for getting its goods to European markets.

“This will put in place a corridor between China and Europe,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told reporters after signing the deal in Belgrade, estimated by local media to be worth 1.5 billion euros.

Li said he was confident the project – whose cost has not been officially confirmed – would be completed within the next two years.

The signing was the centerpiece of a summit in Belgrade with 16 Central and Eastern European leaders designed to cement Beijing’s plans for new transport links to funnel exports into Europe.

China hopes to turn the Greek port of Piraeus – where the Chinese shipping giant Cosco has a 35-year concession to hugely expand its two container terminals – into a new hub for trade with the continent.