Bledar Feta and Ana Krstinovska, Research Associates of ELIAMEP’s South-East Europe Programme participated as speakers in the networking workshop on Influence, Governance, Transparency & Accountability held by the Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Belgrade, Serbia. The workshop managed to gather more than 40 scholars and researchers working on China as well as regional subject-matter experts, journalists and academicians providing a platform for further discussion on the Chinese foreign policy globally, in Europe and regionally.

In this 2-days event, Ana Krstinovska moderated the first panel which investigated the Chinese influence strategies in different countries in CEE and in the Western Balkans. According to Krstinovska, “while China’s offer was initially the same towards all the countries, the outcomes are different due to factors, such as domestic agency, EU and NATO membership”. Bledar Feta, as a speaker of the first panel analyzed the Chinese influence efforts and operations across Albania based on the research he did in 2021. According to Feta, “Beijing is applying a structured approach which passes through four different but interlinked phases in order to expand its footprint in Albania”. When it comes to the results of this strategy, Feta supported that “the picture is mixed with both successes and failures. On the one hand, China has succeeded in increasing its presence in Albania’s economy and media, improving the ability of Chinese state actors to sell Chinese narratives to the wider public. On the other hand, China has failed to make Tirana over-reliant on Beijing, like other countries of the region such as Serbia”.

The second day of the event was divided into small group discussions. Krstinovska was an impulse presenter in the workshop which discussed the threats to the transparency and accountability of political institutions, and the way these threats interact interact with the threats to the transparency and accountability of trade, investment and development assistance. In her intervention, Krstinovska talked about development assistance as the most prominent area where shortcomings and issues related to transparency, accountability and integrity can be observed, especially in the project cycle of large infrastructure projects. Feta was impulse presenter in the workshop on the obstacles to the ability of civil society to defend against threats to civil and human rights, workers’ rights and the environment. During his presentation, Feta made a special reference to the financial dependence of civil society organizations to foreign donors or the government supporting that “this dependency affects the agenda of civil society actions and projects according to the needs of the donors without taking into consideration the citizens’ concerns”.

Both Feta and Krstinovska are two of the local experts who worked closely with the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) to produce a series of in-depth case studies that explore China’s influence operations across all members of Beijing’s former 17+1 initiative.

You can read the report about the Chinese influence in Albania written by Bledar Feta here.

You can read the report about the Chinese influence in North Macedonia written by Ana Krstinovska here