|Serbia to publish Etihad deal next week following new revelations|
The Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić has announced that the secretive deal between the government and Etihad Airways for its 49% stake in Air Serbia will be made public next week. The publication of the agreement should outline investment commitments made by both the state and the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, which has been a source of great speculation and interest. The announcement comes over a year after the takeover was signed and eight months since the government first promised it would make it public. However, facing increased pressure, the PM said all agreements made with foreign investors will be published next week. “There is nothing to hide. The contract with Etihad is clear as the sun because no one stuffed money in their own pockets or robbed the country”, the PM said yesterday. He added, “Everything will be shown in black and white”.
Opposition parties have voiced their concern over the agreement saying it is damaging to the state. On Thursday, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) leaked parts of the contract signed with Etihad. According to BIRN, the country has invested more in the establishment of Air Serbia then its UAE partner. It states Serbia had to pay over 90 million dollars in 2013 alone while the UAE invested 40 million, in the form of a loan, for a 49% stake in the company. In addition to this, the state has yet to pay debts that were accumulated by the former national carrier Jat Airways, which are estimated at over 230 million dollars, according to the agreements published by BIRN. However, since most of the debt owed by Jat is to state-owned companies, it is unlikely these will ever be repaid. Jat Airways had no outstanding debts towards foreign entities.
Yesterday, opposition parties called on the government to resign over the deal, while the PM refuted BIRN’s claims. Earlier this year the Serbian Commission for Control of State Aid disclosed parts of the investment deal the Serbian government and Etihad Airways made in the restructuring of Jat Airways and its transition into Air Serbia. According to the Commission, plans drafted between the Serbian government and Etihad Airways will see the financial burden of transforming Jat into Air Serbia shared by both sides.