Serbia to award Belgrade Airport concession to Etihad
Trade unions have reacted angrily to plans drafted by the Serbian government to award Etihad Airways a twenty year concession contract to operate Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport. According to the plan, Etihad will run Serbia’s busiest airport over the next twenty years under the condition it builds a new passenger terminal, runway, airport hotel and car park. The airport’s four unions, who were presented with the government’s plan late last week, have warned such action would give Etihad a monopoly over the Serbian aviation industry and lead to the pull out of other airlines operating flights to Belgrade. In a statement, the unions said, “Belgrade Airport is of strategic interest to Serbia and of great importance to national security. We appeal for the government to take this into consideration when making its final decision”.
According to the plans outlined to the unions by Luka Tomić from the Ministry of Transport, the government also plans to merge Belgrade Airport’s handling division with Air Serbia Ground Services (formerly known as SU-PORT). In addition, the airport’s new operator will form a new company which will take over employees from the current state owned enterprise. During the summer, Serbia’s former Finance and Economy Minister Mladjan Dinkic, who is now serving as the Deputy President of the Committee for Cooperation with the UAE, announced plans for the airport to be put up for concession in early 2014.
The Serbian government has an 83% share in Belgrade Airport with minority shareholders made up mostly of banks and investment funds. Plans to award Etihad a concession contract to operate Belgrade Airport over the next two decades could be part of the secretive Jat Airways takeover deal which was signed between the two sides in August. The deal between the Serbian government and the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates has never been made public and has been marked as confidential, with its contents classified so as to protect the business interests of Etihad Airways.