China’s Balkan Investments Are Paradoxically Speeding Region’s EU Integration

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.

It is unsurprising that the region of the Western Balkans, tucked away in the southeast corner of Europe, has become fertile ground for the expansion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, BRI. China’s long-term political and economic strategy encompasses developing a series of intercontinental land and maritime routes around the globe, funding multiple infrastructure projects, and strengthening economic, political and cultural ties with more than 60 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Many of the overland routes being integrated into the BRI framework are not dissimilar to those that were once part of the ancient “Silk Road” from centuries ago.

The region of the Western Balkans is strategically located and offers China several advantages with respect to its evolving BRI strategy. Despite its relatively small size in terms of total population and economic output, this six-nation area – comprising Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo – is next door to the European Union and its market of 440 million people.

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