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International relations

China unsettles EU with Belt and Road moves in the Balkans

Beijing's influence in Europe's 'powder keg' risks stoking old rivalries

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with China's President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday, confirming the two nations' support for the Iran nuclear deal, recently abandoned by the United States, and agreeing to cooperate on the development of self-driving cars.

Germany, the economic and political leader of the European Union, has common interests with China in fending the protective trade measures of U.S. President Donald Trump. But there are important differences underlying such friendly meetings as well, including concerns about China's human rights record. And a new concern has emerged for the EU in recent years -- China's growing influence in the Western Balkans, the area comprising primarily the countries of the former Yugoslavia, including Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania.

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