Hahn: Brussels has underestimated the influence of China in Balkans

Johannes Hahn; Photo: European Council

European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn underlined that Brussels has underestimated the influeece of Republic People’s of China in Balkans.

In the interview with Financial Times he points out that he is worried about the loans taken by the Balkan countries from Beijing.

Hahn explained that some Balkan countries are taking big loans from China for infrastructure projects, which he claims increases the risk of long-term damage in their poor economies.

As he pointed out – China has never taken into account whether the country is capable of paying its loans or not. In case of not being able to pay, country would be under pressure until the projects are transfered into Chinese ownership.

He added that Europeans may not be the fastest and can demand more than others, but they are the most respected partners in the end.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Han cited concerns about Beijing’s impact, which could be an additional source of instability, the MIA reports.

“Maybe we have overestimated Russia and underestimated China, and we should give both of them an adequate place,” Hahn said.

The British newspaper writes that China has lately invested significantly in the Balkans within the 16 + 1 platform, which includes 11 EU member states and five non-member states – Northern Macedonia, Albania, BiH, Montenegro and Serbia.

According to the Center for Strategic International Studies, more than half of the $ 9.4 billion invested in 16 countries in 2016 and 2017 are for non-EU countries.

Hahn said that the Czech Republic and Poland have became more attentive to the Chinese investments due to the US accusation of spying on the Chinese company Huawei.

Commenting on Balkan politics, Hahn said he expects the Prespa Agreement recently signed between Greece and North Macedonia, will produce a domino effect throughout the region.