A high-level dialogue on human resources exchange between China and the EU and a conference of education ministers between China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries were held in Beijing this week.

Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, who chaired the talks, said at a news conference he held together with Chinese Deputy PM Liu Yandong, that the two sides would continue strengthening relations, with special emphasis on science, education and digital networking.

It was announced earlier that China would sign agreements on the mutual recognition of university diplomas with 19 EU countries, not including Croatia or neighbouring Slovenia, and that it would focus on a balanced exchange of students.

According to the latest official statistics, by the end of 2015 more than 303,000 Chinese students studied in an EU country, which is 24% of all Chinese students studying abroad, and an increase of 7.5% compared to 2014.

More than 45,000 students from the EU studied in China in 2015, which is 11.3% of the total number of foreign students studying in China last year.

The fact that more than 3,000 students in the EU received Chinese government scholarships in 2015, an increase of 12% from 2014, bears evidence of China's will to additionally work on increasing those numbers.

This was one of the central topics of the conference of education ministers China + 16, the first such conference held as part of this cooperation mechanism.

The Chinese leadership is confident there are strong foundations for further cooperation in the field of education between China and the EU.

Croatian Ambassador Nebojsa Koharovic, who attended the conference on Croatia's behalf, said that it provided an excellent opportunity to promote a broader regional cooperation with China along with bilateral cooperation.

According to official statistics, China and EU countries have so far signed more than 80 bilateral agreements on cooperation in the field of education. A total of 131 Confucius Institutes have been established across the EU with more than 620,000 students.

Even though one such institute has operated as part of Zagreb University for several years, the number of scholarships the Chinese government has allocated for Croatian students is much lower than the number of scholarships granted to other EU member-countries - five to ten scholarships for various universities across China. The last tender, in the spring of this year, put emphasis on traditional Chinese medicine.

The number of students from China in Croatia is even lower. Those are mostly students of the Beijing Foreign Studies University, which has a Croatian language department.

Koharovic said he was confident the Beijing conference and cultural exchanges would result in Croatia too signing with China an agreement on the mutual recognition of diplomas and in more exchanges in culture, education, science and technology.

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