“Serbia did not just take over Air Serbia from Etihad Airways, but Serbian government rather paid for it. We do not know how much the whole transaction cost and why the Serbian government did that in the first place,” said Economics Professor Miodrag Zec.
It is difficult, as he said, to assess why Etihad sold his share in Air Serbia because there are a thousand and one indicators missing to even talk in detail about the transaction since all large-scale government projects “are shrouded in secrecy”.
“What the public should be asking to know is how much of taxpayers’ money was spent on the transaction”, Professor Zec added.
He went on to mention that Serbia also gave its main airport to be managed via a concession while instead it could have managed it on its own and keep the income from that.
With Etihad acquiring a stake in Air Serbia, it made the Belgrade airport uncompetitive for other companies. He pointed out that the plane ticket to Tivat costs 200 euros and to Porto 70 euros although Tivat is geographically much closer to Belgrade. He also noted that Etihad did not allow low-cost carriers to use Belgrade airport but rather forced them to use the airports in Niš and other towns.
Nemanja Nenadić from Transparency Serbia said that the country entered into the “famous interstate agreement with the United Arab Emirates (where Etihad is from) without launching a legally required tender beforehand.
He also points out that Air Serbia has better business results than his predecessor JAT (Yugoslav Airlines).
“But these results were due to state investments, with a lot of Air Serbia’s debt being written off and the company constantly getting state subsidies,” Nenadić adds.
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