Before the EU-Western Balkans summit last week, Slovenia, which currently chairs the EU presidency, urged the bloc to admit Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Albania, by 2030.
But the fact that the countries will not be joining the EU anytime soon gives Russia and China the green light to step further into the region, analysts said, a concern that EU leaders also voiced at the summit.
In 2016, a coup plot engineered by 14 people – including two Russian military intelligence officers – failed to install a pro-Russia, anti-NATO leadership in Montenegro. Moscow dismissed the allegations as "absurd."
Beijing has provided major loans to the region. In 2014, Montenegro accepted a $1bn loan for a road, which it has since struggled to pay off.
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