The Agreement on Economic, Commercial and Technical Cooperation, and the Agreement on Mutual Promotion and Protection of Investments between the State of Qatar and the Republic of Serbia have created a legal framework for improving the economic cooperation between the two countries
”Qatar Chamber and Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding in April this year in order to establish a joint Business Council, in an effort to increase cooperation between the Qatari and Serbian private sectors, as well as increase the exchange visits between business people from both sides, and establish joint ventures between Qatari companies and their counterparts in Serbia. The volume of external trade between the two countries is still lagging behind the political relations of the two countries, as it did not exceed 6.5 million euro last year,” said Qatari Ambassador to Serbia, H. E. Sheikh Mubarak bin Fahad AlThani, for the special supplement InFocus Qatar.
How would you rate overall bilateral relations between the two countries?
– The development in the friendly relations between the two countries is the result of the wise leadership in both countries and the sincere desire on both sides to promote bilateral cooperation. There was remarkable intensification in the exchange of visits between senior officials since the opening of the Embassy of the State of Qatar in Belgrade in 2015, and I would especially note the visit of the former President of the Republic of Serbia to Doha in 2016, when a number of bilateral agreements were signed which will strengthen cooperation and consolidate bilateral relations between the two countries.
The founding of the Qatari-Serbian business council has been announced recently. What do you expect from this initiative?
– In April of 2019, Qatar Chamber signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to establish a joint Business Council in an effort to increase cooperation between the Qatari and Serbian private sectors, as well as increase the exchange visits between business people from both sides, and establish joint ventures between Qatari companies and their counterparts in Serbia. The legal framework for the protection of the interests of both parties is in place as several agreements have been signed in the field of economic cooperation, which provides a favourable atmosphere for enhancing cooperation between the two countries.
What is the current economic cooperation between the two countries like?
– The volume of external trade between the two countries is still lagging behind the political relations of the two countries, as it did not exceed 6.5 million euro last year. I would, therefore, like to invite Qatari and Serbian companies to explore business opportunities in both countries and build partnerships in all fields and benefit from the incentives and a favourable business climate and attractive laws and regulations for investments in both countries.
The Agreement on Economic, Commercial and Technical Cooperation, and the Agreement on Mutual Promotion and Protection of Investments between the State of Qatar and the Republic of Serbia have created a legal framework for improving the economic cooperation between the two countries. In which fields is there the most room for cooperation?
– There`s a lot of room to strengthen the cooperation between the two countries in various fields, including infrastructure, seeing how Serbia is working on developing the infrastructure through partnerships with foreign investors to improve its roads and railways and establish highway connections with all the surrounding countries. There`s also IT and international trade services, as Serbia has very highly qualified programming and IT experts and the two sides are preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the field of ICT. Also, options for investments in private companies that have been offered, including various spas and factories, should be considered.
The Doha Forum will be held in December. This is one of the most important international forums discussing political, economic, regional and international issues. Minister Dačić will also participate in the Forum. What are your expectations from the Forum?
– Doha Forum is a global platform for dialogue, bringing together policy leaders to build innovative and action-driven networks. This year Doha Forum will bring together a distinguished group of leaders, thinkers, and policymakers to examine the overarching theme of “Re-imagining Governance in a Multipolar World” and re-imagine global governance that addresses our collective needs and priorities. We are looking forward to the participation of the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Mr Ivica Dačić, as it will enrich the discussion and add significant value to the Forum. His Excellency is expected to hold meetings with the leadership of the State of Qatar on the sidelines of the Forum to discuss ways to enhance the comprehensive relations between the two countries.
World media often write about Qatar’s thorough preparations on welcoming the best football players in the world and a large number of fans and guests. What are the most important World Cup-related projects carried out in your country?
– Since we expect that nearly a million people will visit Qatar during the World Cup 2022, the emphasis is on developing tourism projects. This entails the extension of Hamad International Airport, the development of the railway network in line with global standards and the construction of accommodation capacities with over 55,000 beds that will be able to take in a larger number of guests during the World Cup. That is in addition to building 64 facilities for the football teams. Existing preparations for the World Cup have resulted in huge spending on stadiums. The tournament will take place in seven cities and on 12 stadiums. Upon completion of the tournament, some of the stadiums will be disassembled and the materials will be used to build new sports facilities in Qatar and abroad. All World Cup-related projects are planned to be completed in 2020, two years before the start of the tournament. We hope that the Serbian team will qualify for the tournament and that the media and spectators from Serbia will have the opportunity to visit Qatar to attend the matches and enjoy the atmosphere.
Your national airline, Qatar Airways flies from Belgrade to Doha daily. In late 2017, Qatar decided to allow the Serbian citizens to enter the country on free tourist visas. How important is tourism for the relations of the two countries?
– The most important thing is that tourism brings peoples together. It is also a key driver in sustainable economic development and a cultural marketing tool for countries. Countries’ industries and products are identified through tourism, which contributes to establishing partnerships and promoting economic cooperation between countries. I would like to point out that my country, Qatar, welcomes tourists and business people from Serbia. Qatar is also an attractive destination with beautiful beaches, museums, hotels and a long history, in addition to being a safe country for both visitors and business people. At the same time, Serbia is a beautiful country and I would like to invite the citizens of Qatar to learn about the natural beauty and cultural and historical heritage of Serbia. It is important to note that the preparation of an agreement on cooperation in the field of tourism is in progress. This agreement will serve as a legal framework for increased effort in promoting Qatar as a tourist destination in Serbia and vice versa, and for informing the citizens of these two countries about the tourist potential and to arouse their interest in travelling and discovering new destinations.
In the past years, a growing number of Serbian citizens have been leaving for Qatar to find a better job. Are there statistics about the number of Serbs working in Qatar?
– According to the latest statistics, the number of Serbian citizens staying in Qatar is between 2,000 and 2,500 and most of them work in the hotel business, health care, energy and construction.