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June 2020

Chinese interventions in Montenegrin super-projects

China is expanding its political and economic influence in Montenegro, especially in the energy and transportation sector. The contracts with Chinese companies (some of them state-owned) have the potential to burden the Montenegrin economy foe years, if not decades.

Serbian channels spreading Russian propaganda in North Macedonia

Since most Macedonians understand the Serbian language, many stories published on Macedonian channels are translated from Serbian outlets, but without proper crediting of the sources. Those are often vehicles for anti-democratic disinformation with overtly pro-Kremlin bias.

Pakistani immigrant entry to EU manipulated as a false narrative

Similarly to other European regions, the debate about immigration is also being abused in Bosnia and Herzegovina by certain disinformative outlets. Recent disinformation claiming that Pakistani immigrants come to BiH with fake visas, accompanied by allegations that Pakistan is sending convicts to BiH, has been cited by Serb politicians and media, but even got to The Sunday Times.



The European Values Center for Security Policy is organizing a second online seminar, at this time on the Czech approach against foreign malign activities and influence. The webinar aims to share experiences, lessons learned, and practices from the Czech Republic when it comes to facing the malign activities such as spreading disinformation and influence operations.

The distinguished guest and speaker of the seminar will be Jakub Janda, the executive director of the European Values Centre for Security Policy.

Jakub Janda specializes in the response of the democratic states to hostile disinformation and influence operations. He is Associate Fellow at Slovak Security Policy Institute and a regular contributor for the Atlantic Council. He serves a member of the Editorial Board of expert portal and as a proud member of Active Reserves of the Czech Armed Forces. In 2016 – 2017, he was tasked by Czech security and intelligence institutions to consult on the “Influence of Foreign Powers” chapter within Audit of National Security conducted by the Czech government, where he was involved in the Czech policy shift on this issue. Since 2019, he serves as a member of the Programming Board of the Centre Anne de Kyiv. He serves as Regional Liaison for Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China since June 2020.


DATE: July 21, 2020

TIME: 1.00 - 2.30 p.m. (CEST), 3.00 - 4.30 p.m. (GET)


  • I. Part: Czech (non)government counter-measures against foreign mailing influences
  • II. Part: Experiences and lessons learned from the Czech case
  • II. Part: Q&A and discussion

ORGANIZER: European Values Center for Security Policy



Chinese interventions in Montenegrin super-projects

China is working to expand its political-economic influence in the Western Balkans, particularly in the energy sector. According to the analysis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, the energy sector accounts for an average of 18.5 percent of GDP across six Western Balkan states.[1] Correspondingly, 79 percent of Chinese-funded or Chinese-invested activities in the Western Balkans is in energy and transportation.[2] Indeed, China's focus on the region's energy sector was clear during last year's 17+1 Group summit in Dubrovnik.

Beijing's financial and commercial interventions are not benign. China targets institutional weaknesses in developing markets, seeding influence through undemocratic political actors, and opaque commercial entities. Montenegro is no exception. In 2015 it started its largest infrastructural project, the construction of the Bar-Boljare highway, estimated at €1.3bn and that has increased the country's debt from 63% of GDP in 2012 to almost 80%. The highway is being built by the Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), and 85% of the costs are provided through a loan from China’s Eximbank.

Chinese state-controlled firms are slowly penetrating Montenegro's energy sector as well. This June, state-owned energy company Elektroprivreda Crne Gore signed a €54 million contract with a Chinese-Montenegrin consortium for the reconstruction of thermal power plant Pljevlja. This consortium consists of Chinese company Dongfang Electric International[3], and Montenegrin companies Bemax, Permonte, and BB Solar, which is co-owned by Blazo Djukanovic, son of Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic. Consortium leader, Dongfang Electric International Corp., is part of Chinese state-owned Dongfang Electric Corporation Limited. It is noteworthy that Dongfang Electric International has a cooperative agreement with Russian state-owned energy company Inter-RAO, which also expressed an interest in the privatization of the Pljevlja thermal power plant.

Beijing's financial partnering with Podgorica will unduly burden the Montenegrin economy for years - if not decades.


[1] Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.

[2] H. A. Conley, J.E. Hillman, D. Ruy, M. McCalpin, China’s “Hub-and-Spoke” Strategy in the Balkans, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Washington, April 2020, Available at:

[3] Dongfang Electric International and Russian state-owned energy company Inter RAO share a strategic cooperation agreement in the field of electric power industry; RAO previously indicated its interest in the privatization of the Pljevlja Thermal Power Plant

Serbian channels spreading Russian propaganda in North Macedonia

One of the historical legacies of SFR Yugoslavia is that what was then the Serbo-Croatian language remains as a lingua franca in the former Yugoslav countries. Consequently, a majority of Macedonians understand Serbian; e.g. several years ago, Serbian textbooks were still at use in universities due to insufficient literature in the Macedonian language.

This bilingualism is a boon for online media production. A typical means of increasing article output is by translating directly from Serbian media, especially for stories that have a high click-bait potential. Their detection is simple. Very often, stories translated from Serbian reveal key grammatical errors. For example, words with declinations intact indicate Serbian translation, as Macedonian lacks them, so immediately alerting the reader as to origin. Headline searches on the Serbian news aggregators similarly affirm translated-story origins, their translations often being word-for-word.

These stories are typically vehicles for anti-democratic Russian propaganda. The articles’ translation is not a problem; rather, the issue is that they do not credit the source. Moreover, authors are rarely cited because of an article’s translation. Regrettably, readers often fail to note whether the article is original or its authorship, unaware that it originated as a Russian narrative served through Serbian channels.

F2N2 analyzed a series of translated articles, finding the most frequent sources of translated articles to be Serbian sites Sputnik Serbia, Kurir, and Informer. These outlets regularly publish articles with an overt pro-Kremlin bias, as well as hawking conspiracy theories intended to create fear among their readers.

North Macedonia’s Magazin is not the only portal that relies heavily on Serbian sources - but it is the most prominent. According to its website, the company is a member of SuisseControls AG. SuisseControls provides security, infrastructure, cleaning, and real estate services - none of which are related to media and journalism. Other North Macedonia websites commonly spreading translated disinformation narratives include MKD Press, Standard, Sloboden svet and Infomax.

Pakistani immigrant entry to EU manipulated as false narrative

Immigration has been a top issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in recent months. It has further served as a source for foreign-backed disinformation narratives concocted to influence public opinion. One prime example is a tale about the alleged influx of Pakistani immigrants coming to BiH with fake visas issued by its embassy in Islamabad. Broadly misreported, this story was even picked up by The Sunday Times.

The story is as follows: The Bosnian embassy in Islamabad committed visa fraud to the extent that 3,000 Pakistanis illegally entered the EU using BiH as “a back door“. A politically-charged issue, it started as a cornerstone of a platform whereby certain local politicians led by ex-Minister of Security Fahrudin Radončić sought to malign Pakistan.  Mr. Radončić and the Bosniak member of the Presidency Šefik Džaferović even disputed the matter publicly.

This story was further manipulated through media outlets connected to Radončić Avaz. Inserted into the narrative were allegations of Pakistan sending convicts to BiH through the purported fake visa scam. As these stories usually go, these false reports were cited by Serb politicians in their statements and the media in an effort to malign Bosnia’s state-level government as dysfunctional. Furthermore, the “reports” were picked up by Sputnik. Its editors later invited reputed pundits to elaborate on the purported story, including relations between BiH and Pakistan during the war.

Raskrinavanje debunked these allegations.  Its researchers found no evidence of fake visas being issued; moreover, that the total number of visas issued by the embassy in Islamabad is significantly less than 3,000. Finally, there was nothing to support any claims of Pakistan sending convicts to BiH. There is an apparent humanitarian issue in BiH and migrants. It is tragic to see it grossly manipulated for crass political ends.

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