|Serbia considering different options for Belgrade Airport development|
The Serbian government is revaluating whether to put Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport up for concession as earlier planned. The change in policy comes after the country’s Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, said his government will make a decision on Belgrade Airport’s future in the coming period. “Soon we will see how and in which way we will expand Belgrade Airport and build a new runway, whether it will be through concessions or whether a different approach will be used. I am certain that by the end of 2016 - 2017 Belgrade Airport will become the biggest hub in the region”, the Prime Minister said. He added Nikola Tesla Airport is experiencing problems as a result of increased traffic, in particular with baggage sorting and aging technology.
Earlier this year, the PM revealed plans to put Belgrade Airport up for a twenty year concession, outlining strong interest from the Persian Gulf’s largest construction company Arabtec Holding. At the time the government unveiled plans to utilise a Private-Public Partnership (PPP) model to build a third terminal at Belgrade Airport to be used exclusively by Air Serbia, reconstruct Terminal 1 and build a second runway, a cargo center and a nearby hotel. The investment was estimated to be worth one billion dollars. Mr. Vučić says the investments are needed in order to accommodate growing passenger numbers which have been driven primarily by Air Serbia. “I am proud to say that from July 2013 to July this year Air Serbia has recorded a 83% passenger increase - a European record. In September, Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan will present us with results of the partnership. From this year onwards Air Serbia will become a profitable company and Serbia will earn money from it, compared to the massive losses recorded all these years”. Recently revealed documents, signed between the government and Etihad Airways for the latter’s minority takeover of Air Serbia, show the Serbian national carrier is to be given a dedicated terminal at its hub.
Plans to grant a concession of the airport to a company from the United Arab Emirates was met with fierce opposition by trade unions who warned such action would give Etihad a monopoly over the Serbian aviation industry and lead to the pullout 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”. Several companies have already expressed their interest to participate in the concession process including Greek-based Copelouzos Group as well as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Interest from Austria, France and Russia has also been shown. The Serbian government has an 83% share in Belgrade Airport with minority shareholders made up mostly of banks and investment funds.