Protests are planned in Serbia against a real estate project financed by Trump’s son-in-law Kushner

May 17, 2024, 12:34 AM

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Opposition groups in Serbia are planning protests against a real estate development project that will be financed by the firm of Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, at the site of the former Serbian army headquarters destroyed in a U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign in 1999.

The Serbian government earlier this week signed a deal with a Kushner-related company for the 99-year lease of land in central Belgrade for the “revitalization” of the bombed-out buildings. Kushner has confirmed reports that his company plans to finance the $500-million project. It would feature a high-rise hotel, a luxury apartment complex, office spaces and shops.

“The economic progress in Serbia over the past decade has been impressive,” Kushner said in a statement confirming the approval of the deal. “This development will further elevate Belgrade into the premier international destination it is becoming.”

Government officials have welcomed the project, but opposition groups and many in the general public have spoken out against it.

For many, the site of the bombed-out army command building is a potent symbol of Serbia’s resistance against what they call “NATO aggression” 25 years ago.

Serbian forces fought a 1998-99 war with ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo, which was then a Serbian province. About 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, died until a 78-day, U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign pushed Serbian troops out of Kosovo.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008, but the government in Belgrade doesn’t recognize its neighbor as a separate country.

The leader of the Ecological Uprising opposition group, Aleksandar Jovanović, announced that the organization “will use all means, including physical” to defend the demolition of the old General Staff building and the handover to an American company.

“The moment the first bulldozers appear, we will be waiting for them,” Jovanović said at a press conference and called on all citizens to join them, especially members of the Serbian Armed Forces, “all those who have the courage to defend the old General Staff and not allow this crime to happen.”

Government officials defended the deal that was signed with Kushner’s Affinity Partners company on Wednesday.

“We will restore the building 25 years after it was destroyed in the bombing,” construction minister Goran Vesić said. “For a quarter of a century, no one, before this Government, had thought to rebuild the complex. When this space is revitalized, it will contribute to the development of Belgrade and Serbia.”

He said that a bombing memorial will be built at the site, financed by the investor.

Earlier this year, the Albanian tourism ministry acknowledged it received an investment project application from Affinity Partners to turn a former military base on Sazan Island in the Adriatic Sea into a resort. Prime Minister Edi Rama said Albania was proud to have attracted such interest.

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Protests are planned in Serbia against a real estate project financed by Trump’s son-in-law Kushner