The European Union this week rebuffed a desperate plea from the tiny country of Montenegro – among the Balkans’ youngest nations after it broke from from a federation with Serbia in 2006 – to pay off an almost one billion euro loan from China which it borrowed for an ambitious highway project, deemed among the world’s most expensive.
At a moment Beijing is said to hold a quarter of all Montenegro’s debt, the state-owned China Road and Bridge Group has completed one-third of the highway at an estimated cost of €20 million per kilometer. Part of Xi’s ‘Belt & Road Initiative’ the highway is so expensive in part due to Montenegro’s extreme mountainous terrain and “difficult geological conditions” – according to a recent Chinese government statement.
The Financial Times reported this week that Montenegro has essentially begged the European Union to step in, and to help a rescue deal along officials are now hyping the “Chinese influence threat” on Europe’s periphery. It should be noted that tiny Montenegro became a NATO member in 2017, to Russia and Serbia’s great consternation…
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