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Serbia's lack of clear energy strategy discourages foreign investment – experts

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The situation in which the Italian company Bontkom Green Energy, which plans to erect a wind farm on the territory of Boljevac municipality, finds itself shows that foreign investors interested in the energy sector constantly face almost insurmountable difficulties that discourage them from investing capital in Serbia.

Namely, after obtaining the necessary permits for the construction of the wind farm, Bontkom Green Engineering is considering backing away from the planned investments, which are worth 100 million euros, because, according to media reports, some of the lots on which the wind farm is supposed to be built have been purchased by a rival unnamed Russian company that is blackmailing the Italians with participation in the project or the sale of the lots at a price far higher than the market price.

Milan Budimir, spokesman in the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, stresses that he is not acquainted with the specific problem that has appeared in Boljevac.

“The only thing I know is that the aforementioned company requested an energy permit from us, which we approved. Following the acquisition of the energy permit, it is up to them to obtain the other needed documentation in order to implement their project. Where our ministry is concerned, we have done everything that falls within our authority in order to accommodate the investor,” our collocutor says.

The expert community in Serbia, on the other hand, thinks that the lack of a clear energy policy enables “fishing in troubled waters” along the lines of what happened in Boljevac. It is totally clear, namely, that the person who purchased the lots intended for the construction of the wind farm knew exactly what was going to be built on that land. He could have obtained that information only from someone within the circle of those who knew that the Italians were interested in constructing a wind farm.

Aleksandar Stevanovic, an associate in the Centre for a Free Market, emphasizes that, in Serbia, transactions connected with energy do not unfold in a transparent way, which represents a big problem.

“That non-European way of doing business is only going to discourage serious investors, and the Serbian energy sector and economy are both going to have nothing but damage from that. No investor is ready to wait for months or years for the permits needed to get the job, paying all sorts of taxes in the process, in order, in the end, to be ‘played for a fool’ in the manner that applied in Boljevac or some similar case,” Stevanovic states.


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