Abu Dhabi: The relationship between Serbia and the UAE is on the rise and a number of projects will be taken up by both countries to boost trade and investment, the President of the Republic of Serbia told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.

“We are discussing a number of projects including construction of factories and hospitals in places where Muslims dominate. The Emirates is interested in the privatisation of our telecommunication company and other sectors,” said Tomislav Nikolic who is on a visit to the UAE for the World Future Energy Summit and also to hold discussions with the country’s leadership and businessmen to boost trade and investment opportunities.

A number of UAE-based companies have invested in Serbia including Etihad Airways, Eagle Hills, Al Dahra agricultural company and Abu Dhabi Development Fund.

Etihad Airways has a 49 per cent stake in Air Serbia and Eagle Hills, owned by Emaar chief Mohammad Al Abbar, launched Belgrade Waterfront project last year.

Belgrade Waterfront

According to President Nikolic, the waterfront project will reshape the look of Belgrade. “The work has been launched. We made pedestrian walks in the vicinity so that people can tour the site and see how the work is being completed. We are now selling office and residential space.”

Being billed as one of the biggest projects in Serbia in the last two decades, Belgrade Waterfront will occupy 1.8 million square metres and will have 5,700 homes, office buildings, eight hotels with 2,200 rooms and the Balkan’s largest shopping mall of 140,000 square metres.

Eagle Hills will have a 68 per cent share in the project while the rest will be owned by the Serbian government. The total cost of the project is $3 billion (Dh11 billion).

“Serbia is a stable country with excellent assessment by both the IMF and World Bank. The government encourages new employment and many projects have been implemented so far. We expect more investors to come to Serbia because every investment has been successful.”

Speaking about defence ties between the two countries, he said the UAE is interested in some military products of Serbian industry.

“We are now entering a stage of joint production and this project is carried out in the military technical institutions in Serbia in cooperation with the Emirates. We will be producing goods not only for [UAE] but also for the third markets.”

Etihad tie-up

The tie up between Air Serbia and Etihad Airways has been successful, he said.

“I know that Etihad has same demand from different airlines. The profits of this company grew drastically year by year. Now everything depends on the business policy of Etihad. It would be good if both Air Serbia and Etihad spread to other countries,” he said of the partnership.

“As of this year we will have direct flights to the United States from Serbia.”

President Nikolic praised the progress made by the UAE in all domains and said the history of friendship between Serbia and the UAE dates back to late Shaikh Zayed and Tito.

“At that time [the former] Yugoslavia was better off than the Emirates. But now the times have changed and UAE can help Serbia by giving employment to as many people as possible.”