REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Country Reports

Balkans: Geopolitics in Times of Corona

Foreign Aid and Public Relations Work and Their Perception in South East Europe

The coronavirus pandemic is a stress test for global value chains, national health systems and the resilience of societies – with no clear outcome. Against the backdrop of the crisis, we are also witnessing a geopolitical, systemic competition to win the hearts and minds of states and societies and to dominate global narratives. True to the motto that every crisis harbours an opportunity, the People´s Republic of China and the Russian Federation in particular are striving to gain sympathies in selected countries through rapid aid and its propagandistic staging, so as to highlight the superiority of their own systems and thus to expand their soft power. It would be naive to assume that their actions are guided solely by humanitarian considerations and international solidarity. What´s more, they are applying illegitimate methods such as fake news and disinformation campaigns as well.

An arena that is attracting special attention from Beijing and Moscow is the Western Balkans. The six non Member States of the region represent an enclave within the European Union, are economically and financially weak, with poorly consolidated democracies and equipped with ailing health systems. It is true that the EU has announced up to 38 million Euro in additional emergency aid, and a reallocation of pre-accession assistance amounting to 374 million Euro as part of its global reaction to the Western Balkan region´s health emergency in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.  Yet, will this aid arrive and will it be recognised? And what real aid is being provided by China and Russia in the crisis? The heads of the KAS country offices provide us with assessments from the Western Balkans and the EU Member States Croatia and Slovenia.


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