Between East and West : EU and China's competing spatial integration logics for the Western Balkan Region

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The Western Balkan Region (WBR) is currently undergoing a complex process of integration into the European Union (EU) and its countries, although at different paces, are progressively nearing the moment of accession. This has several implications for the spatial integration of the region in the EU territory, with the EU that, since the 1990s, has been supporting the latter with a number of programmes and actions. In the last decade, however, a new, cumbersome actor entered the game: the launch of China’s belt and Road Initiative in 2013 has triggered a growing influx of foreign capitals into the region, potentially limiting the influence of the EU on ongoing transformations and reforms. The contribution aims at shedding light on this matter. It does so by exploring the logics of the Chinese interventions on the WBR, in terms of vision, approach, priorities, sectors and volume of investments and means of implementation, and by comparing it with the logics of the ongoing integration process. Overall, the contribution shows that, whereas the EU remains the most relevant player in the regions, the growing political and economic role played by China may in the slowdown the process of integration.
Belt and Road Initiative, Western Balkan Region, European Union, China, conditionality