The Balkans & South East Europe in the middle of geopolitics again
Over the past 10 years, the Balkans have been a focal point of the Chinese Belt & Road Initiative as a way to gain a foothold in Europe, garner influence and create investment opportunities. For Russia, although not as important as Ukraine, the Balkans can serve as a bargaining chip for negotiations with Europe. As for the EU, the accession of Balkan countries has been on the agenda for a while, albeit in a low-key manner. The Covid-19 epidemic has put all those forces in motion, making the Balkans the epicenter of regional and global power moves.
Political and economic opportunities are likely to emerge for a region that lags behind Europe in all parameters.
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The EU reaffirmed its commitment to Western Balkans nations earlier this week (6 May), including by pledging €3.3 billion to help battle the coronavirus pandemic in the region amid fears that the region will be a battleground for great power competition.
Yasuo Takeuchi, Nikkei Asian Review (09.05.20)
As the novel coronavirus spreads in the Balkans, the European Union finds itself in a fierce battle for influence around the region with China and Russia, which have been quicker to send medical staff and other support.
Cameron Munter & Valbona Zeneli, The American Interest (08.05.20)
Western inattention has created opportunities for China and Russia to make mischief in the Western Balkans. It’s time we put an end to it.
David Felsen and Dennis Feltwell, Balkan Insight (07.05.20)
If the EU suddenly seems more interested than it was in integrating the Western Balkans, it is partly because the expansion into the region by large regional powers such as China has got Brussels worried.
Robin Emmott, Reuters (07.05.20)
The European Union’s 27 leaders on Wednesday gave their “unequivocal support” for the six Balkan countries to eventually become members of the bloc and offered them more financial support as Brussels seeks to check Chinese largesse.
Valerie Hopkins, Financial Times (05.05.20)
The FT's South-East Europe correspondent Valerie Hopkins reports on moves by China, Russia, the EU and US to gain the upper hand in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and the western Balkans.
Sarajevo Times (28.04.20)
The European Investment Bank will provide EUR 10 million to Raiffeisen Leasing doo Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and unlock new financing for local small and medium companies. The EIB loan will allow the company to finance projects and working capital for SMEs operating in industry, tourism and services sectors, as well as agriculture. This support comes at a time when SMEs are the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and are facing unprecedented challenges.
A. Wess Mitchell, The American Interest (23.04.20)
Central Europe has an opportunity to benefit from the coming restructuring of global supply chains—but only if it gets out of bed with Beijing.
Abdullah Kesvelioglu, European Western Balkans (14.04.20)
That the EU has a problem of visibility in some parts of the Western Balkans, even though it has been its biggest donor and trading partner for decades at this point, was already well known. However, the COVID-19 crisis currently seems to be unlikely to improve this state of affairs.
Shaun Walker, The Guardian (13.04.20)
As the Coronavirus pandemic spreads, countries see an opportunity to use soft power and aid to advance their personal foreign policy goals. Russia, China and the EU find themselves in the middle of it in order to please Serbia.
Vuk Vuksanovic, Foreign Policy (08.04.20)
Beijing is using the coronavirus pandemic to expand its influence into the EU’s backyard.
Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group, Policy brief (April 2020)
In its emergency response, the EU needs to include all Western Balkans
countries in assistance and post-emergency reconstruction plans, irrespective of the status of their accession talks. The full inclusion of the region is essential so as to prevent dire economic consequences and geopolitical drift. Support to overcome post-crisis economic and social effects should be conditioned on measures to reduce state capture.
EU states' ambassadors have provisionally agreed to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, ending months of uncertainty after France vetoed it last year. Ambassadors took the step Monday, with EU affairs ministers to discuss it Tuesday, prior to adopting the move by so-called written procedure. North Macedonia was due to hold snap elections over its EU bid on 12 April, but these were postponed due to the virus.