BELGRADE—A European state financial institution is ready to refinance $809 million of Montenegro’s debt to China, allowing the tiny Adriatic republic to make savings and cut interest rates, the country’s finance minister said on Thursday. China sees the Western Balkans, which includes Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia, as well as Montengro, as part of its Belt and Road initiative to expand Chinese influence. Beijing has invested billions in the region, mainly through soft loans in infrastructure and energy, which could complicate EU expansion east. The 2014 Chinese loan for the construction of a stretch of the highway from the Adriatic coast of Montenegro—a NATO member and candidate to join the EU—to the border with Serbia, sent Montenegro’s debt soaring to a total of 103 percent of economic output and forced the Montenegrin government to ask for EU help. At a session of the parliamentary committee for finances and …
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