Gulf Investors Look Past Political Tension To Build A New Belgrade

Those who complain about the dismal state of political discourse in their home country should consider themselves fortunate that they aren’t governed by the parliament in Kosovo. On two occasions in early October, legislators there have been forced to flee the chamber after opposition party leaders released tear gas canisters. The anger is directed at negotiations led by the European Union, whereby Serbia will formally recognize Kosovo’s independence nearly two decades after a brutal civil war ended. That recognition is an important step toward Serbia’s application to join the EU, and President Aleksandar Vucic is staking his reputation on its successful outcome.

Many investors would look at Serbia’s accession to the EU bloc as a signal to look more closely at opportunities there. But investors from other emerging markets don’t feel the need to wait. On 5 October Eagle Hills, a UAE-based property development firm, announced the launch of Belgrade Waterfront, a US$ 3 billion flagship project along the Sava River in Serbia’s capital. The mega-project will occupy 1.8 million m2 and will contain 5,700 homes, office buildings, eight hotels with 2,200 rooms and a 140,000 m2 shopping mall, the largest in the Balkans. Eagle Hills will own a 68 percent share in the project while the Serbian government will own the remainder. The Emirates is no stranger to Serbia. Two years ago Etihad, the official airline of Abu Dhabi, acquired a 49 percent stake in Air Serbia and pledged to invest US$40 million in transportation infrastructure in Belgrade.

Photo Credit: Parliament TV

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