Serbian Opposition Seeks End to UAE Agreement

Serbian Opposition Seeks End to UAE Agreement

Serbia’s opposition Democratic Party is seeking the termination of a cooperation agreement between Serbia and the United Arab Emirates, claiming it is unconstitutional and harmful.


Serbia’s opposition Democratic Party, DS, has filed a draft law seeking termination of the agreement on cooperation between Belgrade and the United Arab Emirates, UAE, signed in February 2013, claiming it is unconstitutional and damages the public interest.


Balsa Bozovic, the MP who submitted the bill, told BIRN that the agreement allows for non-transparent private deals between Serbia's ruling Progressive Party and UAE companies which is against Serbia's legal order.


“The only proper thing to do is to terminate the agreement because it completely breaks the legal order of Serbia and puts the UAE partners of the Serbian Progressive Party into a privileged position on the market,” Bozovic said on Thursday. “The whole legal order is suspended that way,” he added.


In 2014, the party asked Serbia’s Constitutional Court to determine whether the law on the agreement between the two countries met constitutional provisions, but the court has not ruled on the issue as yet.


Bozovic also proposed scrapping the law that determines the expropriation procedures and the issue of building permits for the realization of the Waterfront project.


In November 2015 he filed a criminal complaint against Infrastructure Minister Zorana Mihajlovic who that April signed the contract between the UAE-based company Eagle Hills and the Serbian government for the project.


“The prosecution office told me that they could not do anything about it because the damage [from the Waterfront project] would be determined only in 30 years' time when the project is finished … by which time my complaint will be outdated, so they have secured themselves on both sides,” Bozovic told BIRN on Thursday.


The state-backed project has bitterly divided the Serbian public in the last two years, prompting mass protests by the protest group “Let’s not drown Belgrade”.


While the government sees the Waterfront development as a major contribution to the capital city's economic future, some experts say the deal is unconstitutional because it involves the suspension of Serbian laws on the Waterfront's territory. Some locals also say the project will benefit only the rich.


Beside the Waterfront deal signed with Eagle Hills, among other allegedly damaging contracts between Serbia and the UAE, the Democrats have highlighted the deals with Etihad Airways and the agriculture company, Al Rawafed.


The terms of the agreement with Etihad, signed on August 1, 2013, were disclosed only a year later, after huge public pressure.


BIRN revealed in August 2014 that, for a 51-per-cent stake in the newly founded company Air Serbia, Serbia had paid several times more than its UAE partner.


According to data from the agreement, Serbia was obliged to pay over 90 million US dollars while its UAE partner had to pay only 40 million dollars and in the form of a loan.


In July 2014, Serbia signed a joint venture agreement with Al Rawafed International L.C.C by which the UAE company obtained 10,500 hectares of land in Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina and four public agriculture companies for a price of 22 million euros.


According to the deal, Serbia owns 20 per cent of the shares in the joint venture and would not be obliged to invest further, while Al Rawafed was to invest 140 million euros over four years.


However, agriculture experts and farmers have since claimed that the UAE Company has left most of the bought land neglected and uncultivated.


According to the Serbian investigative portal, Voice, the Gulf company paid only 60 euros per hectare for 3,534 hectares although the average market price was then 350 euros.


Voice journalists say they have not been able to reach the company for a comment since they do not have a website or phone number, while the doors on their alleged Belgrade address are closed.



Balkan Insight






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