All Emirates business in Serbia

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Since the coming to power of the Serbian Progressive Party and its current leader Aleksandar Vučić in 2012, the connection between our country and the United Arab Emirates has been a constant topic in the public eye.

The scope of mutual cooperation is continuously growing, and despite numerous announced projects that never came to fruition, such as Mubadala’s chip factory, Belgrade on the water, loans and the purchase of agricultural land by companies from the Emirates do not falter.

Jobs of UAE companies in Serbia

Air Serbia

The first deal between Serbia and the UAE was the sale of 49 percent of the shares of the former JAT company to Etihad. It marked the year 2013, and long after it was presented as a project of exceptional importance for our country. In the years that followed, especially when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, the UAE’s share fell from 49 percent of shares to 18 percent. This is justified by the company’s poor performance due to the situation with covid.

The recapitalization of the Serbian national airline was undertaken at the request of Air Serbia, in accordance with the decree of the Government of Serbia from October 2020, which foresees the measure of recapitalization of economic entities affected by the pandemic, the Ministry of Finance pointed out, and Radio Free Europe (RSE) reported.

Belgrade on water

The “Belgrade on the Water” project, a residential and business complex on the right bank of the Sava near the center of Belgrade, in the middle of which rises a 168-meter tower, is the most visible and controversial symbol of this cooperation.

That project was marked by numerous incidents. The demolition in Hercegovačka street, for which citizens are still protesting and which has not been clarified even to this day, to the fact that Serbia gave free land for the purpose of construction.

In 2014, a part of the public pointed to bad urban planning solutions related to Belgrade on the water, so changes to the General Urban Plan were announced, which was opposed by civil activists who believe that these changes benefit private capital and harm citizens.

The prime minister at the time, today the president of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, said that “we have no problem with the GPU or general regulation. It takes our decision to start implementing this project. We have a large number of interested investors, but it is pointless to talk about it, because of course there will be a tender and there will have to be a match and a competition for something like this.”

In 2014 and 2016, Serbia received a one billion dollar loan from Abu Dhabi for budget support, but this continued. And this year, our country received a billion euro loan from the UAE, on which we will pay only 3 percent interest, which the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, assessed as “practically a gift”, because according to him, “Hungary, like some other EU member countries, they get six percent interest.”

Also, during the ministry of Mlađan Dinkić in 2013, while he was the Minister of Economy, the Development Fund from Abu Dhabi invested 400 million euros in water systems in Serbia.

Forten’s group

Mercator S, Sberbank, Roda, Idea are companies that operated in the Fortenova group, whose owner was Agrokor. On the official website of Fortenova Group, it is stated that Mercator S with a network covering 80 cities and other locations in Serbia, owns 300 Idea stores and four Idea online stores, 33 Roda supermarkets, two Mercator centers and hypermarkets, four Velpro centers and HoReCa centers for Catering. According to the Croatian media, 43.4 percent of the shares of this group were sold a few days ago to an investor from the UAE, Seif Alketbi.

Al Rawefed, Al Dahra, Mubadala, Sinofarm…

Companies from this rich country that operate in Serbia include, in addition to Etihad and Eagle Hills, Al Rawefed, which is engaged in the cultivation of grain, Al Dahra, which is engaged in the production and processing of food, as well as Mubadala, a company that intended to engage in production in Serbia chips.

“In Serbia, they are interested in building a factory, and that investment, if we agree, would amount to four billion dollars.” The heart of the hardware would be made here, which would mean that we have to additionally develop some scientific areas, such as nano technology. It would also be by far the largest investment in Serbia, and 1,000 highly qualified experts, including scientists, would find work. For that project, we plan to invite Serbian scientists in the world to return,” said Dinkić at the time, as reported by our newspaper.

The non-transparency of the businesses that companies from the UAE perform in Serbia are still the subject of questions from both journalists and citizens.

Namely, in the privatization of the Port of Novi Sad, according to Insider’s research, only one company from the UAE applied for the tender, while in 2016 as many as 12 companies applied. Similarly, when it comes to the privatization of PKB, only the Al Dahra company appeared at the tender and bought PKB for a little more than 105 million euros, although the assessment of the value of the Agricultural Corporation of Belgrade was 104.5 million euros, which is only a part total value.

There is also Sinofarm’s vaccine factory, in the construction of which China, the UAE and Serbia participated. According to announcements, it was supposed to produce 40 million doses per year that would be exported, but the fate of this project is unknown.

They are not only investing in Serbia from the UAE. Most weapons go to the Emirates

In the past three years, the UAE has been at the very top of the list of countries in terms of the value of arms and military equipment (NGO) exports from Serbia, according to data from the Ministry of Trade of Serbia, which is responsible for issuing export licenses.
According to the data published by RSE in 2020, they occupy the first place on that list with exported weapons worth 61.56 million US dollars.

Three years ago, more precisely in 2019, in terms of the value of NGO exports, the Emirates was the second most important export destination with 71.45 million dollars, right after the United States of America with 86.23 million dollars.

In 2018, Serbia exported NGOs worth 165.26 million dollars to the Emirates, making the country the leading export destination.

The last of the contracts was concluded in February, when the domestic company Jugoimport SDPR and the EDGE group from the UAE signed a contract in Abu Dhabi for the sale of a “significant” amount of ammunition, a product of the arms company Krušik from Valjevo.

Also in 2013, a contract was signed in Abu Dhabi between “Jugoimport SDPR” and the company EARTH from the Emirates on the joint development and equipping of the ALAS missile system.

In the meantime, foreign media wrote that the export of arms to the Emirates is controversial because of the role that country plays in armed conflicts in its environment.

In April, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, commented on the export of weapons, at an exhibition of military equipment at the airport in Batajnica near Belgrade, and said that Serbia exports weapons wherever the end user is allowed.

Minister of Finance on the value of Arab investments

According to data from July 2022, Siniša Mali stated that the total value of Arab investments in Serbia is four billion dollars.

“The net inflow in 2018 from the UAE to Serbia was 180 million euros, and in 2010, investments from the UAE amounted to only 300,000 euros. “This data perhaps best speaks of how much we have strengthened our cooperation in just a few years,” said Mali.

In October 2021, the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, stated in Dubai that around 1,000 companies from the Emirates operate in Serbia, and according to data from the National Bank of Serbia, direct investments from the Emirates in Serbia in 2021 amounted to 11.8 million euros, Danas writes.