This year, the UAE will not only celebrate its 50th anniversary but also the accomplishments that have transformed the country from an undeveloped desert to a nation pioneering missions in outer space
This year, the Republic of Serbia and the United Arab Emirates are celebrating half a century of successful relations. The UAE and Serbia have, above all, friendly relations, imbued with successful humanitarian and large economic projects. It is rare for economic relations to take precedence over political issues, as is the case with these two countries. We talked with H.E. Mubarak Saeed Burshaid Al Dhaheri, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the Republic of Serbia about the successful cooperation with Serbia, the assistance provided during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the challenges that the UAE is facing.
Your Excellency, good relations between Serbia and the UAE date back to the time of the Non-Aligned Movement. How would you assess the bilateral and overall relations between the United Arab Emirates and Serbia today?
Our relationship marks a jubilee this year for its 50th anniversary, since bilateral relations between the United Arab Emirates and then-Yugoslavia date back to 1971, the year when the UAE was established. Over the years, our two countries have engaged in cooperation, and our relations have grown through high-level official visits conducted since 2012. At that time, a framework to develop bilateral relations was established. Our two countries continue to strive to adapt this framework, and we are all witnessing the tangible results of these efforts.
I am always blessed and proud to represent a country that is so generous and compassionate about helping others
Your country is celebrating 50 years of independence this year. How does the UAE plan to mark the 50th anniversary of the historical unification of the emirate?
This year, the UAE will not only celebrate its 50th anniversary but also the accomplishments that have transformed the country from an undeveloped desert to a nation pioneering missions in outer space. The UAE has completed numerous mega projects: artificial islands; the tallest building in the world; the first peaceful nuclear power plant in the region; UAE space satellites; sending UAE astronauts to international space stations; and the UAE Hope Probe heading toward Mars, among others. Only a few countries in the world have had such an upward trajectory in five decades of existence.
As His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said: “We are well-placed to realize our ambition of making the UAE the best country in the world by its 100th anniversary, relying on the strong foundations laid down by our founding leaders and the major successes that we have achieved over the past decades.” This year, we will set out on a path of further progress and prosperity for our descendants.
The UAE has been involved in a number of international humanitarian campaigns to help the world fight the virus, and Serbia, as one of the friendly countries, was given priority. What sets Serbia apart from other countries, so that the UAE had made it a priority?
One of the basic pillars of UAE foreign policy is foreign aid and assistance. The UAE provides foreign assistance in response to the directives of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, extending help to those in need around the world.
The main goal of UAE foreign aid is to reduce poverty and improve quality of life in underprivileged communities, foster relations between the UAE and other states, including the recipient countries and other donor states, and encourage the creation of economic relations with developing countries based on mutual interests.
Serbia is one of our partners in achieving these goals. So far, the United Arab Emirates has directed numerous donations to the Republic of Serbia through various support programs and different charity organizations from the UAE. Most of our donations to Serbia have been dedicated to vulnerable groups, people in need, disaster-damaged areas, economic development, and the development of rural areas.
So far, the United Arab Emirates has directed numerous donations to the Republic of Serbia through various support programs and different charity organizations from the UAE
Even before the outbreak of the COVID-19, your country had been making donations to Serbia. What are you especially proud of when it comes to the overall assistance that the UAE provides to our country?
I am always blessed and proud to represent a country that is so generous and compassionate about helping others. We donated to at-risk populations after disasters, including floods and earthquakes, and helped underdeveloped regions in Serbia by equipping hospitals, nursing homes, kindergartens, schools, and other social and educational facilities.
As part of our assistance, we encourage economic development in developing countries. One of the donations of this kind is a turnkey project of an industrial facility in Raska Municipality, donated by Khalifa Fund for Development. In 2019, a Serbian textile company set its production line in this facility. Donations like this in Raska are adding value to the wider community. We encourage economic activity that creates new jobs, stimulates consumption, generates additional income for the municipality, and consequently increases the quality of life of the community. Such donations are of great value, and I am especially proud of them.
What challenges is your country currently facing and what developments do you expect to take place this year once the pandemic subsides?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for a green recovery and sustainability has become more evident. The UAE’s COVID-19 recovery plan aims to drive sustainable development by encouraging investment in three main sectors: digital economy, food security, and the green economy.
Food security is a top priority for UAE. We have worked to strengthen scientific research collaboration in order to advance global efforts to achieve sustainable development goals in the food and water sectors.
The importance of digital transformation in all sectors—economy, government, and particularly in the education sector—became clear during the pandemic. Transferring traditional education to digital platforms is the best path forward.
We undertook a climate risk assessment for four key sectors—energy, infrastructure, health, and environment—and the formulation of adaptation measures is ongoing. We also highlighted the role of the UAE’s insurance sector in minimizing the financial and economic impacts of climate change.
How did the UAE government respond to the crisis and what measures have been implemented to help businesses?
In an effort to contain this crisis and reduce its impact on the community, the UAE Government allocated a flexible stimulus budget amounting to AED 256 billion and took exceptional measures to offset potential damage.
The Central Bank supported the national economy with an AED 100 billion economic support plan for retail and corporate customers affected by COVID-19. Central Bank measures included the approval of loan eligibility, a reduction of the capital requirement, and the adoption of new policies.
The UAE Government and federal entities allocated AED 156 billion to reduce the economic burden of COVID-19.
Local government entities also took steps to ensure business stability, with a focus on the full exemption of fees for some government services and the reduction of others as well as payment flexibility.
The UAE Government allocated a flexible stimulus budget amounting to AED 256 billion and took exceptional measures to offset potential damage
What will the economic recovery look like this year? In terms of the relations between the UAE and Serbia, what are the prospects for improving the overall cooperation between our two countries?
I am sure that the year ahead is full of challenges, and we will not immediately overcome every issue of the past year. However, we have learned from experience that challenges always create new opportunities. Our companies in Serbia are working on their projects without interruption. During 2020, new projects in the field of wastewater treatment were launched. These projects continue to grow, and cooperation in this sector is expected to expand. In line with the sustainability strategy of the UAE, we plan to implement more projects in the field of renewable energy sources, environmental protection, and smart solutions in the fields of agriculture, IT industry and artificial intelligence. That is our vision for our future cooperation to add value to both sides.
Could you please tell us more about Dubai Expo 2020?
Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region, and largest-ever event to take place in the Arab world. Located in the Dubai South District, the Expo site covers around 4.4 square kilometers, including a 200-hectare gated area.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the global mega event will now run from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022. As the COVID-19 vaccination program moves forward, Expo will provide visitors with the chance to safely enjoy spectacular architecture, interact with global cultures, and examine thought-provoking exhibitions. Above all, visitors to the event will witness the very latest in human brilliance and innovation in one place.