Asya Metodieva speakers at the 10th Belgrade Security Forum (IIR, Czech Republic)

Despite the declared ambition of all Western Balkan countries to join the European Union and their integration and increasing cooperation with NATO, the region is influenced by strong anti-Western narratives that significantly shape the public discourse and influence citizens’ opinions. Disinformation became an increasingly important topic for the EU and NATO in recent years, and the Western Balkans, as “Europe’s soft underbelly” proved to be an important region in this regard. This became especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic when in the middle of a global battle of narratives about the emergence of the pandemic and international aid, the Western Balkans became a region where China’s image was greatly improved at the expense of the EU despite significant aid provided by the latter.

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