Agreement with UAE to be finalized by March 31

Partners from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) "will certainly come to Serbia, and it is expected that the agreement will be finalized by March 31".

Source: B92, RTS, Tanjug

This was stated late on Tuesday by Serbian Minister of Agriculture Goran Knežević.

The interstate agreement with the UAE is probably one of the best agreements Serbia has made in the past several decades, and it refers to an arrangement in which agriculture is only one of the segments. It will bring tremendous benefits to Serbia, Knežević said in an RTS broadcast.

"They marvel at us, from the French president to Swiss and German bankers, and wonder how we managed to do it," Knežević said, adding that the Serbian government managed to achieve this "through some of its connections" and great acquaintances of Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić and Minister of Finance and Economy Mlađan Dinkić.

Knežević also pointed out that seven ruined agricultural combines in restructuring will become part of a joint enterprise, adding that they record losses and that once they are restructured they will have to pay EUR 30 million in order to reach zero level, while the state will cover all that from the money it will get from the realization of the agreement.

The UAE partners will pay EUR 13,300 per hectare for the land on average, which is almost three times more than the average price in the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, which amounts to EUR 5,000 per hectare, and they will also invest EUR 100 million in watering systems and mechanization, Knežević said.

"They have also provided a fund of EUR 300 million for the entire economy of Serbia," Knežević pointed out.

Vojvodina-based associations and farmers criticized the deal, saying it was illegal to sell land to foreigners, and that land could only be leased in a tender. The provincial authorities in Novi Sad earlier this month asked the government to send them the original text of the pre-contract outlining the deal to lease 2,982 hectares of land to UAE company Al Dahra.

The Ministry of Finance has since posted the pre-contract on its website.

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