China's Drones Go To Serbia Upon Purchase
Chinese police officers stand at the Republic Square during joint patrol with Serbian police officers in Belgrade, Serbia, September 20, 2019. Picture taken September 20, 2019.

(Photo: REUTERS/Marko Djurica)

As part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, China is going to have a big role in the defense and security development of a future European Union member nation, Serbia, with Chinese drones getting delivered in the next few months and Huawei's signed agreement with the country getting inked as early as 2017.

Last month, Serbia announced the purchase of Chinese drones.

This is the mainland's biggest military sale in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

Serbia, a candidate for a European Union membership, used to buy weapons from NATO member nations, other countries of the former Yugoslavia and Russia.

With the Chinese defense and public security systems, Serbia is definitely upgrading its defense industry.

The Chinese presence in Serbia lately had been more noticeable with the Chinese police, together with its Serbian counterparts, patrolling the streets of Belgrade since Sept. 18.

These patrols are part of the security surveillance agreement of Huawei Technologies and Belgrade around this Serbian capital in accordance with a deal signed in 2017.

Vuk Vuksanovic, a Serbian-born researcher in international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science said the drones and Huawei "bring a new security component into Serbia's BRI (Basic Rate Interface) integration."

In the next six months, nine Chinese Wing Loong drones will get delivered to Serbia with a possible 15 more follow-on orders.

These remotely piloted aircraft are operating in Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.

A post that had been deleted on Huawei's website this year stated that it has 100 high-definition cameras and video content management (VCM) systems at 60 places in Belgrade for automatic abandoned object detection, behavioral analysis, license plate recognition, loitering detection, and tripwire detection.

Huawei has been setting up these"safe city" projects in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan,

Vuksanovic added that "Serbia's position as a promising EU-membership candidate makes it a useful Chinese bridgehead for the European defense market."

He also pointed out that President Vucic has recently said that China agreed to transfer technology to the Pegasus drones.

Serbia has been developing these drones indigenously.

These drones are projected able to stay airborne for up to 12 hours with an operating radius of 100 kilometers.

This puts much of neighboring Kosovo -- which has a tense relationship with Serbia -- into range.

Military deals like these usually have Chinese donations coming in like ambulances, IT equipment, and rubber boats.

In relation to this, what had been evident was the Poly Group Corporation of China and the Serbian government talking about manufacturing Chinese military equipment in Serbia in 2017.

However, there hasn't been any information about this afterwards.

Thomas Eder, an analyst with the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies commented that these developments are indicative that "trust has been built between Belgrade and Beijing."

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who visited China in April, said, the country is "the most honest and trustworthy friend" of his country.