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SOFIA (Bulgaria), November 28 (SeeNews) - Russia’s economic footprint in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries ranges from an average 11% in Hungary and Slovakia to 22% in Bulgaria, a study by the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) showed.
Russia has used its economic influence on the CEE countries to ensure the maximisation of the benefits of its engagement with the region, CSD said in a press release published following the release of its 16-month study of “The Kremlin Playbook - Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe” earlier this month.
The study covered five case countries - Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Serbia and Slovakia.
While there is nothing wrong or surprising with Russian corporate presence in the region, the authors of the study outline two factors, which expose certain risk related to the degree of influence, which Russia might have on those particular countries.
According to the study, evidence shows that the Russian capital has been used by Kremlin to carry through interrelating economic and political interests. Also, Russian state-owned resources in particular have been seen as used in party financing, protest campaigns and the acquisition of media channels outside of the usual corporate governance frameworks, the author of the study states.
The study makes concrete recommendation how those countries could build greater resilience to foreign influence, including substantially enhancing anticorruption and development assistance mechanisms at the EU level, as well as making EU's individual country recommendations more specific and linking to EU development assistance penalties. Furthermore, the study suggests that NATO and EU members should be encouraged to task their own financial intelligence units with developing dedicated units that track illicit Russian transactions.