Serbia gets Washington’s attention as China builds influence in Balkans

Serbia gets Washington’s attention as China builds influence in Balkans

US President Donald Trump said history had been made in September when he brokered a deal in Washington to normalise economic ties between Serbia and Kosovo, which fought a war in what became part of the larger break-up of Yugoslavia into separate states in the 1990s.

The deal marked a new chapter in US-Serbia relations, strained for decades due to Washington’s role with Nato in supporting Kosovo during the conflict.

As Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti sat with Trump for photographs in the White House on September 4, one country not in the picture was China. But analysts say the Chinese government’s hefty investments in Serbia are a prime factor driving US policy in the Balkans region of southeastern Europe.

Trump made no mention of China at the White House meeting, but the agreement includes a clause stating that Serbia will “prohibit the use of 5G equipment supplied by untrusted vendors”. That is a wording used by the United States to refer to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co., which Washington has labelled a national security risk.