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Serbia has rolled out this red carpet to China – but at what price?

After the COVID-19 pandemic began early in 2020, Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic angrily announced that Serbs could no longer rely upon the European Union for assistance.

From mines to factories, highways into railways, Chinese investment has become Serbia because of 2016.

China’s presence in Serbia isn’t fresh, connections between both countries were forged during the right time of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, but Chinese presence was observable only in rare cultural events and little Chinese merchant community found in the district of New Belgrade.

Speaking earlier this season, Vucic explained the association between the two countries as a”friendship of steel”, a fitting description awarded the current order by China’s HBIS Group of a steel mill in the town of Smederevo.

The bargain is a valuable one for China, provided the factory’s $300 million of debt has been taken by Serbian tax-payers, together with the job called a”savior program” to the town and the provincial market generally.

“We’re distressed. Folks are coughing, so you can’t open the windows, as well as the plants, are coated in dust. We can’t market our goods and the vast majority of us aren’t working from the factory-what we’ll reside on,” he explained.

Milic explained that the natives are planning a lawsuit against the business, while many petitions and reports were registered to the institutions about the contamination, but nothing has been done thus far.

“We’ve protested in the streets however, the authorities and the firm are quiet. We found out that the authorities gave free of charge use [of] the local port on [the] Danube river into the company, at no charge for another 50 decades,” he explained.

The situation is comparable in the town of Bor, whose inhabitants took to the streets in their tens of thousands a week to protest contamination following a Chinese firm, Zijin, purchased a mine in 2018.

The mine is the biggest copper mine complex from the Balkan area and its performance has resulted in a surge in contamination. In September, amounts of 1645 milligrams of SO2 were listed in the atmosphere, over ten times the 125 mg allowed by law.

Local activist and resistance fighter Irena Zivkovic reported that arsenic in the atmosphere was 200 times across the allowed concentration only last year. She told Euronews that heavy metals were discovered way above the allowed levels.

“When we asked for the official information about [its own ] impact on public health, the number of recently deceased men and women are in the area – lung ailments, cancer – we didn’t receive a response from the associations,” she explained.

Zivkovic said that Bor’s local authorities have vowed to answer taxpayers’ concerns about air quality.

However, by the local law, fines can’t exceed $26,000 with this particular offense.

Neither Zijin nor HBIS Group reacted to Euronews’ asks for comment on this situation. The Serbian government didn’t answer questions submitted by Euronews.

Critics fear that since Serbia becomes a test situation and version to Chinese investment in weaker, more populous European nations, state resources are sold at a charge to the regional taxpayers and flimsy environmental protections are throw by the wayside without consequences.

They state Serbia is in dire need of investment and the government has shown a willingness to bypass normal regulatory protocol to be able to change a weak advantage immediately, including the recent sale of Belgrade Rewards into some business from the United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, the company collaboration between the two countries has come hand in hand with military and security cooperation.

Huawei

But Serbia has acquired Chinese CH-92A drones and Serbian defense ministry Aleksandar Vulin lately said China has given military gear to the nation.

Serbia is the only European country to back Beijing’s claims that it’s”combating terrorism and extremism” in southern China.

“It’s evident China creates [a] breakthrough to Europe through the Balkans, and particularly Serbia,” said Vuk Vuksanovic, a member at LSE IDEAS, ” the London School of Economics’ foreign policy thinktank.

Vuksanovic said Serbia’s standing as a European Union candidate however not yet apart, which makes it desirable to Beijing, that needs a foothold in Europe with no regulatory burden that comes from proper member of the bloc.

It may add the aid of Serbia to that of EU members Greece and Hungary, which also have emerged as favorable to Beijing, backing them at the European Parliament.

However, Vuksanovic anticipates that the spat over Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to create Serbia’s efforts to be near both China and the US harder. Belgrade has become more and more near the US under President Donald Trump, but the White House is not likely to look kindly it Serbia doesn’t get by its onscreen war against Huawei.

Huawei recently installed nearly 1,000 high-profile cameras, which utilize license and facial plate recognition applications but also video management programs, at 60 important websites in Belgrade. Additionally, there are plans to get a data center in the city of Kragujevac in collaboration with Huawei.

“It is going to be a hard dilemma. Belgrade can purchase time however when Washington strikes Huawei, Serbia will need to determine where it stands. And it will occur,” he explained.