China’s influence on the Western Balkans

Xi Jinping’s visit to Serbia is “a warning shot to the EU”

According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the visit of China’s President Xi Jinping to Serbia is “a warning shot to the EU”. Today, Xi Jinping will meet up with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. “The words and images coming from Belgrade speak for themselves. Like Russia, China has been expanding its influence on the Western Balkans for years – and has established itself as the region’s best friend and partner. The silent establishment of a new world order according to Chinese rules poses a threat to the Western Balkans and all of Europe. The EU must finally take concise measures against this,” stated Jasna Causevic, the STP’s Western Balkans expert.

“In the future, China’s influence could also affect Europe politically – for example through a secession of the entity of the Republika Srpska from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the consequential threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state,” Causevic warned. “Xi Jinping is providing diplomatic and economic support to the authoritarian leaders in Serbia the Republika Srpska – through credits, investments, new technologies, and medicinal supplies deliveries. 

Also, China has direct influence on the planned integration of Kosovo into the EU institutions. Just like China and Russia, Serbia does not recognize the independence of the former Serbian province. “Further, Peking is supporting a Serbian campaign focusing on a revocation of Kosovo’s independence – which is particularly successful in African states. A solution to the Serbia-Kosovo conflict and a rapprochement between the Kosovo and the EU are becoming increasingly unlikely,” Causevic said. Given Vučić’s public statement that China could do with Taiwan whatever it sees fit, Serbia can also count on China’s support in the Kosovo issue.

“After the wars in the 1990s, the EU failed to provide sustainable support to the fragile societies in the Western Balkans with regard to a coming to terms with the past and to democratization. Further, the EU only provided half-hearted support during the Covid pandemic,” Causevic explained. China had supplied the Western Balkans with its vaccine during the pandemic. “Now, Xi Jinping and Aleksandar Vučić are showing Europe what the EU had long refused to see. The Serbian government is increasingly turning away from the EU – towards China. The Chinese focus on the primacy of the right to development is gaining importance as well, while the protection of political and individual human and minority rights is undermined.”