The Swiss daily Neue Zurcher Zeitung has published an analysis of the growing influence of Russia, China and Turkey on the Balkans. The European Union no longer offers the compelling prospect of expanding the Balkans. This reduces the influence of the West and strengthens the participation of other states, writes the Swiss daily Neue Zurcher Zeitung.
“Just a week after the European Union rejected France’s veto over negotiations with Albania and Northern Macedonia, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Bernabic in Moscow signed an agreement between Serbia and the Eurasian Economic Union on Free Trade,” NZZ writes. “.
The Swiss daily cites this fact at the start of a published analysis of the EU’s weakening influence in the Balkans and the greater participation of Russia, China and Turkey in the region.
The author of the text, Folker Pabst, has stated that there is no doubt that “the EU and the West are losing faith and the opportunity to influence the Balkans” and that this has opened the way for greater influence by Russia, China and Turkey.
NZZ recalls that Russia is, after all, the most popular of the Orthodox, and it presents itself as “the defender of the perennial conservative and anti-Western values of the West.”
Turkey, meanwhile, is associated with Muslims as Turkish Airlines has better links with the region than any older airline and China mainly invests as an investor.
“The enhanced influence of those states within themselves conceals the real danger to the Balkans. Moscow is fighting against strengthening Western influence in the region, especially NATO influence. Russia is well placed to instrumentalize historical dividing lines and instability in the region.
In a sense, Ankara is exporting its concept of the rule of law and is increasingly seeking help in prosecuting opponents of its government. The main projects funded by China, often aided by corruption, have the potential to undermine the rule of law, “NZZ further writes.
However, the author of the analysis published by “NZZ” does not believe that Balkan countries are likely to return to Moscow or Ankara, noting that their foreign trade with Russia is only six per cent, while trade with the European Union is 73.5 percent: that the overwhelming majority of the population aspire to a Western lifestyle, also seen in the fact that people from these countries are moving to the West, not Russia; that even in Serbia, traditionally prone to Russia, it is 45 per cent of the population for EU membership, and only 17 per cent for Russia’s dominant Eurasian Union.
The Swiss newspaper also points out that Moscow, Ankara and Beijing do not act together but have different interests in the Balkans.
“But while not facing serious competition from the East, the West is losing to the Balkans, and with it those parts of the local population who would like to modernize and democratize their countries. For the future, it will be even harder to advance values such as the rule of law, democracy and a liberal market economy, and thus contribute to the long-term stabilization of the region most prone to European conflicts. “