Balkan Insight:China in the Balkans: Controversy and Cost

From Balkan Insight 15 December 2021: China in the Balkans: Controversy and Cost

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) has identified 135 Chinese-linked projects in the Balkans worth more than 32 billion euros. Few have come without controversy.

Wawa Wang, a program director of Just Finance International, which researched the international track record of Chinese companies – including SOEs – operating in Serbia, said that Chinese companies were doing untold harm.

“They cause irreversible environmental, social impacts and human rights violations irrespective of where their operations are based, in China or overseas,” Wang told BIRN.

Wang said that the projects concerned did not qualify for financing from Western investors or financiers due to either policy restrictions such as coal phase-out or questionable return on investments, and would have likely been shelved to make space for a sustainable and just transition in Serbia had it not been for the interest and support of Chinese actors.

“These types of investments – all facilitated with some form of Chinese governmental support – ultimately benefit first and foremost the Chinese companies and SOEs seeking profit centres overseas as China tightens control on its polluting industries.”

“NGOs have made very clear in their comments to the UN body as recent as 2019 concerns for how the Serbian state is failing labor standards and the rights of migrants, refugees and migrant workers. The cases investigated and identified by BIRN and other NGOs point to a systemic institutional incompetency where human lives are sacrificed for the gain of the few, in this context, the Chinese companies,” Wang said.

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