Montenegro has asked the EU for assistance with paying off a $1 billion Chinese loan for an incomplete highway project that has imperiled the finances of the small western Balkan nation, reported the Financial Times.
The saga of the incomplete road project, which is being built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation, is part of a larger geopolitical battle for influence on the EU’s periphery. How Brussels responds to Podgorica’s request — and whether it will bail the country out of a project long deemed unviable — will help to shape the bloc’s relationship with the region.
“Montenegro is small enough that it should be an easy decision” for the EU to help refinance the loan, Milojko Spajic, Montenegro’s finance minister, told the Financial Times in an interview. “This is a small but easy win for them. It’s low-hanging fruit,” he added.
Stefan Vladisavljev, foreign policy analyst for the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, a think-tank, said: “This is the first time that Montenegro or any other country from the western Balkans has made this type of outreach towards Brussels to combat rising Chinese influence.