A recent report issued by the Centre for the Study of Democracy shows that Russia’s involvement in the region is increasing. Russian meddling is reflected not only in the political pressure, but also in economic influence, representing a warning bell for the EU and US. This influence is considered the basic cause of the countries’ slowdown in political reform, especially in Serbia and Montenegro.
Russia ranks first in its financial aid to political parties, media and assets at risk in these countries. The Slavic countries depend on Russia in energy, metallurgy, the banking system, etc.
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According to the report, in Serbia, the Russian presence occupies 10 per cent of the country’s economy, mainly in energy. They offer direct loans to the Serbian economy, making the country dependent in many sectors.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russian Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) makes up 8 per cent, especially in the oil and gas sector.
Macedonia ranks the last in regard to Russian involvement, where its FDI amounts to only 1 per cent of GDP.
While, in Montenegro, experts notice the greatest influence. Russian FDI makes up 30 per cent of the country’s GDP. One third of the foreign companies present in the country are owned by Russian businesses. They also dominate in the tourism industry; 25 per cent of overall tourists in Montenegro are Russians.
Russia interferes in other fields, as well, like in the pro-Russian media and NGOs, but mostly its involvement is mirrored in political parties.
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The report suggests steps to diminish such influence and calls on EU to take Western Balkan countries’ accession more seriously.