• What have we learned from the COVID-19 crisis in terms of Sino-Serbian relations?

    China's influence in Serbia will grow as much as the EU allows it to

    In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Serbian and international expert community has become alarmed by Serbia’s overwhelming emphasis on China in its fight against the virus. Coupled with a statement proclaiming the end of European solidarity by the Serbian President as a result of the EU’s untimely assistance, recent developments in Sino-Serbian relations warrant attention – especially from the perspective of Serbia’s EU accession process.

    The concern is so great that some are worried that China might misuse the situation to continue expanding its political infuence in Serbia, while weakening the EU’s regional position. Others also warn that the boost of public support for China will diminish the already-fragile support of Serbian citizens for the EU. The basis for these fears can be found in the fact that Serbia indeed already stands out from the rest of the Western Balkan countries in terms of its level of political and economic cooperation with this Asian giant.

    This policy brief argues that China is willing and able to step in and increase its foothold in Serbia, mainly due to the lack of genuine EU commitment of Serbian decision-makers, together with the EU’s geopolitical unpreparedness. This paper points out that China’s room to manoeuvre in Serbia strongly depends, therefore, on the level of the EU’s active engagement with Serbia. For this reason, a set of recommendations is developed, mainly focused on EU institutions and member states, as the EU is an actor whose further actions towards Serbia may prove decisive for the country’s future orientation.

    This policy brief is based on a preliminary analysis conducted by the European Policy Centre (CEP-Belgrade) for the purposes of a Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) funded project titled “Serbia at the Crossroads between the West and the East”. The views expressed in this policy brief are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent opinions of the KAS.

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