Ser­bia signs a con­tro­ver­sial US$3 bil. devel­op­ment agree­ment for Bel­grade

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

Ser­bia signed a US$ 3bil­lion deal Sun­day with an Abu Dhabi- based de­vel­oper to trans­form a popular area of Bel­grade into an up­scale hous­ing and shop­ping com­plex, a project op­po­nents have la­beled “a scam.”

The project with de­vel­oper Ea­gle Hills, dubbed Bel­grade Wa­ter­front, is to turn arts and nightlife dis­trict Sava­mala near the city cen­ter into a two-mil­lion square me­ter com­mer­cial, busi­ness and apart­ment devel­op­ment.

In­cluded in the plans for the project is a 200-me­ter tall Dubaistyle tower.

Ac­cord­ing to the agree­ment signed by Ser­bia’s Min­is­ter of Con­struc­tion, Trans­port and In­fra­struc­ture Zo­rana Mi­ha­jlovic and Ea­gle Hills board mem­ber Mo­hamed Alab­bar, the project should be com­pleted over 30 years, while at least 50 per­cent of it must be fin­ished in the next two decades.

Ea­gle Hills will in­vest 300 mil­lion eu­ros in the devel­op­ment, Ser­bian au­thor­i­ties said in a state­ment.

No other de­tails of the deal have been re­vealed, in­clud­ing how it will be fully fi­nanced.

As the agree­ment was signed, hun­dreds of pro­tes­tors gath­ered in the cap­i­tal to urge lead­ers to halt the deal.

“We be­lieve this is a huge scam,” said Radomir La­zovic of civic group Let Us Not Drown Bel­grade.

“The project lacks trans­parency, we know noth­ing about it. Ex­perts were not con­sulted,” La­zovic told AFP. “It has no eco­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity study.”

Nearby pro­test­ers chanted “Be­trayal!” and “We will not let you do this!” Demon­stra­tors also set up a two-me­ter tall yel­low sty­ro­foam duck, which in Ser­bia sym­bol­izes a scam.

Op­po­nents con­sider the plans to build and sell more than 6,000 luxury apart­ments in Sava­mala un­re­al­is­tic in a coun­try where the av­er­age salary is 350 eu­ros a month.

“An av­er­age apart­ment will cost 400,000 eu­ros. Who is go­ing to buy it?” ac­tivist Robert Kozma asked at the demon­stra­tion.

Pro­test­ers have been op­pos­ing the project since it was an­nounced over two years ago as the top po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic prom­ise of the con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment led by Prime Min­is­ter Alek­san­dar Vu­cic.

Af­ter the sign­ing cer­e­mony Alab­bar of Ea­gle Hills told re­porters: “This is an im­por­tant mile­stone for the re­la­tion­ship be­tween UAE ( United Arab Emi­rates) and Ser­bia. We should cel­e­brate it as the be­gin­ning of closer ties and the be­gin­ning of bet­ter eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion.”

Bel­grade Wa­ter­front is “the largest project of its kind not only in the re­gion, but in Europe,” Bel­grade Mayor Sin­isa Mali added.

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