In Montenegro, the construction of a motorway to open up the Balkan nation – a project launched in 2014 – is now more than two years behind schedule. With its high environmental and financial costs (more than $1 billion), this pharaonic project has dangerously increased the debt of the country of 600,000 inhabitants. FRANCE 24 investigates. The work is being financed by a Chinese bank and largely carried out by a Chinese state-owned company and a local firm close to the previous government, which signed the deal. But if Montenegro defaults on its loan, the contract stipulates that the country must relinquish sovereignty over certain parts of its territory. This burden on the country’s new government has aggravated the strong suspicions of corruption around the building site.
The highway project is part of the ‘New Silk Road’: an ambitious overseas infrastructure investment project initiated by Beijing in 2013. The modern version of this trade corridor consists of a land component – with the establishment or financing of railways between China and Europe – and a maritime component, which involves investments in dozens of ports around the world to facilitate Chinese trade.