The Balkan Silk Road: a force for good (governance)?

Launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative (BRI) aims to establish secure infrastructure networks, land and maritime routes from China across the Middle East, Africa and Europe through a variety of deals in trade, energy and infrastructure. Through its “16+1” platform, China has increased its presence in Central and Eastern Europe – including in the Balkans’ EU hopefuls of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia1 – by promising a $10 billion credit line and a $3 billion investment fund.2 Primarily interested in the Western Balkans’ geographical position as a gateway to the European market, China has over the past few years become a prominent player in the region through its state-led loans and investments in large infrastructure projects. A logistical link for Chinese exports from the Greek port of Piraeus to Europe and a testing ground for later access to the EU market, the “Balkan Silk Road” consists of Chinese policy and investment decisions that are likely to have a marked impact on the countries’ economies and governance.

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