A senior European Union official has said the bloc will “up our game” with China in the Western Balkans, after it earmarked a €9 billion ($10.5 billion) fund for the region increasingly seen as a battleground in the EU’s systemic rivalry with Beijing, reported the South China Morning Post.
The latest financial boost by Brussels is aimed in part at countering growing Chinese infrastructure investments in the region, which Brussels said are less than transparent and counterproductive to the goal of these countries to meet good governance standards before they can join the EU in future, says the SCMP.
“We need to up our game in terms of the offer,” said Jonathan Hatwell, head of the China division at the EU’s diplomatic arm, the European External Action Service, at a webinar hosted by Dutch think tank Clingendael Institute on Wednesday.
“Lately, China has come to dominate the narrative and perception on infrastructure investments,” he said. “What gives rise to the potential concerns in the region is the interplay between the substantial and not always transparent Chinese investments and the currently relatively weak institutional framework [in the Western Balkans].”