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In an open letter to Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, Croatian associations of architects, urban planners, landscape architects, and art historians this week said recently published plans for a development on the south bank of the Sava River were unacceptable.
There was no public consultation about the project, dubbed “City Within the City,” and it was not in line with the city master plan, the letter said, according to Total Croatia News.
Meanwhile, a couple of hundred kilometers down the Sava in Belgrade, an equally grandiose development is under way over resistance from local residents and government critics. What has some Croatians worried, Balkan Insight writes, is that the same Emirates company heading the Belgrade project is in line to take a big role in the Zagreb development.
Bandic signed a memorandum of understanding with Emirati businessman Mohamed Alabbar last month. Alabbar’s Eagle Hills company is developing the almost $4 billion Belgrade Waterfront project. He also built Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
The development was divisive from the start, with opponents decrying what they said was illegal demolition of existing buildings to clear ground for what Eagle Hills proclaims “the most attractive waterfront property in Europe.”
Belgrade Waterfront is the jewel in the expanding crown of UAE investments in the western Balkans.
The UAE flag carrier Emirates Airways acquired a 49 percent stake in Air Serbia in 2013, and the Gulf country is already the largest foreign investor in Montenegro, Balkan Insight says.
Questions of legality and transparency hover around a number of UAE projects in the region, but such investments come with few strings attached, London School of Economics research associate Tena Prelec told Balkan Insight. One reason is that unlike Western investors, the UAE backs long-term projects, she said.
“It fits within the wider philosophy of preparing the country for a post-oil future,” Prelec said. “They are thinking 20, 30, 50 years ahead.”
UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed “has identified Serbia as the main destination in the western Balkans for his country’s efforts to diversify its economy before oil runs out,” The New York Times wrote in 2018.
#PragueMediaPoint Conference for journalists, media professionals, and scholars
The 2019 edition of Prague Media Point will highlight these types of inspiring examples and more. We will offer a mix of scholarly presentations, including keynote addresses; sessions with innovators explaining their solutions; and networking opportunities to promote the exchange of know-how. As in years past, the conference will have a special regional focus on Central and Eastern Europe, though we look forward to covering cases and trends from other parts of the world.
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