Chinese firms face difficulties in Serbia

13 November 2013

Difficulties in land acquisition have caused delays at the first major construction project delivered by a Chinese firm in Europe.

The Zemun-Borca Bridge project in Serbia commenced in late October 2011 and had been scheduled to be finished by the end of November 2014.

Won by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the project includes a 1,482-meter bridge across the Danube River between the neighbourhoods of Zemun and Borca in Belgrade and around 20km of access roads leading to the bridge.

85% of the $255m project is financed by the Export-Import Bank of China, with the rest paid for by the Serbian government.

But problems with acquiring land for the project has caused delays, prompting CRBC’s country manager to say he hoped that the Serbian government could improve its efficiency, reports China’s English language newspaper, Global Times.

The bridge is expected to be complete on time but negotiations are ongoing over extending the deadline for an access road. Global Times reported that it has been verbally agreed between CRBC and Serbian authorities that a 12km access road can be delivered by the end of 2015.

"I’m quite confident we can complete the substantial part of the bridge within the contracted period, regardless of difficulties," said Chen San’an, project manager and the deputy general manager of CRBC’s Serbian branch.

News site reported officials as saying that the route of the access road spans more than 400 parcels of land and that issues have arisen around six of them.

Other Chinese firms active in Serbia also told the Global Times that government inefficiency made working there a challenge.

Chinese company Shandong High-Speed Group will soon begin the construction of two sections of the Obrenovac-Ljig motorway, while China Machinery Engineering Corportion (CMEC) is building the Kostolac thermal power plant.

Meng Yan, general manager with China Shandong International Economic & Technical Cooperation Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shandong High-Speed Group, told the Global Times: "A local parliamentary election may result in the alternation of senior officials in the Serbian government. Officials in negotiations with us today are likely to be replaced by different officials the next day."

Li Xueqiang, chief representative of CMEC in Serbia, also said he hopes the Serbian authorities could speed up the approval process.

"When it comes to the approval process, the authorities of European countries usually follow strict laws and regulations, and are sometimes considered inflexible by Chinese companies," he told the Global Times. "But of course, Chinese companies should also abide by local laws and regulations."

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