Chinese investment soars in Western Balkans
China has capitalised on a decision by the European Union to postpone membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia.
The timing of this delay from the European Union has allowed China to fill a void in the Western Balkans. Chinese support for Montenegro is evident through the 200 metres tall and 1-kilometre long bridge over the Moraca River. The continued pumping of financial resources into the Western Balkans from China is an integral part of their ambitious plan to build a highway from the Adriatic coast to the border with Serbia. This project is funded by a loan from Exim Bank of China and the project is run by the China Road and Bridge Corporation.
The Western Balkans has seen an unlimited amount of capital coming from China in recent years, the European Union, on the other hand, promises but does not deliver when it comes to resources. People are frustrated at the political theatre in the Western Balkans and Brussels, they want a change.
Beijing is currently operating in a vacuum, proposing investment solutions incomparable to the EU. Investment from China offers no-strings-attached finance, something that the Western Balkans could only hope the EU would deliver. Unlike Brussels, Beijing does not demand political conditions or careful accounting. China prioritises development over details like reform and human rights. In the Balkans, China is offering to build national projects the EU won’t touch: coal plants in Bosnia and Serbia, the highway in Montenegro.
In the past few months, North Macedonia has changed the name of their entire country to make the road to EU accession easier. This was not an easy sell for the government under Prime Minister Zoran Zaev but accession to the European Union would solve many of their problems and indeed the problems of Chinese influence for the European Union in the Western Balkans.