homepage_name! > Editions > Number 119 > Ambassador - Qatar

H.E. Sheikh Mubarak bin Fahad Al-Thani, Ambassador of Qatar in Serbia

Qatar

Qatar, officially the State of Qatar, is an emirate located in the Middle East occupying the small Qatar Peninsula, which is a part of the larger Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia in the south, while the rest of the country is surrounded by the Persian Gulf. It is separated from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates by sea. It has an area of 11,437km².

On September 3, 1971, Qatar officially gained independence from the United Kingdom and became an independentsovereign state.

In terms of government, Qatar is an absolute monarchy — an emirate. Its capital is Doha.

The country’s landscape consists mostly of plains and low hills. Along the Saudi Arabian border, there are several salt marshes. The highest point in Qatar is Qurayn Abu al Bawl, at 103 meters.

The official religion in Qatar is Islam. Arabic, i.e. its local dialect, is the most commonly used language. A large part of the population consists of foreign citizens working in different industries.

The natural gas industry has the largest share in Qatar’s economy. The income gained from natural gas trade enabled a higher standard of living and a transformation into a welfare state, much like most European states.

There are several coral islands in the sea. There are no permanent rivers or streams. The Jebel Dukhan area contains Qatar's main onshore oil deposits, while the natural gas fields lie offshore, to the northwest of the peninsula.

The desert climate is reflected in hot summers and very little precipitation.

Qatar is home to the well-known media group, Al Jazeera. Recent years have seen a rapid democratization of the country. The first local government elections were held in 1999.

1. Your Excellency, how do you feel about being in Belgrade? Can you tell us about your impressions of Serbia?

The Serbian people are very friendly and hospitable. Every person from abroad is greeted and accepted graciously, with no discrimination. In Serbia, everybody has a chance to fit in and experience the country as their second home. Therefore, the Serbian people, culture and tradition leave an outstanding impression on all visitors. It is also clear that Serbia is working hard on achieving further progress in all areas of life, especially in tourism.

2. How long have you held the position of Ambassador in Serbia, and what was the course of your career in diplomacy before you came to Serbia?

I was appointed to the position of Ambassador of Qatar in Serbia, in February 2015. Prior to that, I held the position of Ambassador in Azerbaijan, where I was for six years.

3. What is the current diplomatic and economic cooperation of our two countries like, and what was it like in the past? What should be changed in order to improve that cooperation?

The diplomatic cooperation of our two countries is held at the highest level and is beneficial to both sides. The work done by the Qatar embassy in Belgrade and the Serbian embassy in Doha, both established in 2015, have had a large part in it, along with the representatives of our two governments, who are relentlessly working on improving the overall relations and cooperation in various areas. I would like to point out that during the time Serbia’s former president, Tomislav Nikolić, spent in Doha in 2016, five agreements and a memorandum of understanding were signed. We expect the beginning of the realization of many of the signed bilateral agreements in the following period and we hope to see Qatar’s contribution to new important projects in the fields of the economy, culture, infrastructure, etc.

4. How would you describe your cooperation with the Serbian Government and business associations for the purpose of entrepreneurship development?

We are very satisfied with the cooperation we have with the president, Aleksandar Vučić, and the Serbian government. Our two countries have amicable relations which are constantly improving as a result of the dedication of our two governments. During the most recent period, there were several mutual visits by high officials and delegations, which saw the signing of seven bilateral agreements and memoranda, while several other agreements are currently being aligned. It is important to focus on strengthening the economic cooperation, since trade is falling behind the level of our political relations, because there is no direct contact between businessmen of our respective countries.

5. What is the nature of the foreign trade cooperation between our countries and which industries in Serbia have the most potential? What does Serbia export to Qatar, and what does it import from Qatar?

Foreign trade exchange between Serbia and Qatar amounted to 11 million dollars in 2017, which is almost twice as much as in 2016. As much as 97 percent of the trade exchange relates to goods exported from Serbia to Qatar. The available data suggests that Serbia’s exports consist mostly of military goods which make up 52 percent of the entire Serbian export to Qatar. The Serbian Chamber of Commerce has recognized agriculture, food, construction materials, oil products, as well as mechanical engineering and textile industry sectors as the ones with the greatest potential for exporting to Qatar. In addition, the export of fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, meat, honey, pasta, and other food products is expected to grow. We are working on strengthening our cooperation in the fields of education, energetics, agriculture, and the economy. Furthermore, Serbia and Qatar must work on developing air transportation, especially in terms of increasing the number of cargo flights between the two countries. I would like to point out that my country is open to Serbian tourists and businessmen and to emphasize that Qatar is an attractive tourist destination with beautiful beaches, museums, hotels and resorts, and that it ensures the safety of its visitors. At the same time, I would like to invite the Qatari people to visit the Republic of Serbia and see its beautiful nature, cultural and historical heritage, and, above all, to experience Serbian hospitality.

6. When it comes to investments, how do investors from Qatar see the Serbian market? What are the most influential companies that have made investments here?

The advantages of investing in Serbia and the benefits of its market were presented to Qatari businessmen at the end of October last year, during a visit by a large economic and political delegation from Qatar, and further steps in the cooperation will be considered at the end of April, when a Serbian economic delegation will visit Qatar in return, to work on establishing direct contact with businessmen in Qatar and present the potential Serbia has on the Qatari market. I would like to mention that Serbia is an attractive investment destination because of its strategic position, the existence of a favorable network of transport infrastructure, as well as because of the free trade agreements it has signed with numerous countries, as well as government subventions for foreign investors.

7. Today, Serbia is a candidate country – negotiations started in January 2014. In your opinion, how far along is Serbia on the path towards the EU, and what will be crucial for Serbia to become a member state?

Serbia has achieved significant and noteworthy progress in the process of European integration, which is why it has been rightfully marked as a leader in the region. We are glad to witness the success of your government and wish that Serbia becomes the next EU member.

8. Can you tell us about the relationship between Serbia and Qatar in the fields of science, culture and education?

These are precisely the areas that we are working on, aside from economy. With regards to that, memoranda of understanding have been signed in the field of culture, youth and sport. I would like to point out that there is already a large number of athletes, sport experts and coaches who have continued their careers in Qatar. I would also like to add that preparations are under way for the next World Championship in which Qatar will be represented as a country of sport. We expect to see the signing of a bilateral agreement in the field of higher education in the next period, which will create additional opportunities for the improvement of relations of young people from our countries.

9. How would you present your country as a tourist attraction? Which characteristics and sights would you highlight?

Qatar is a unique tourist destination, bringing together tradition and modernism. Doha is undoubtedly the most popular place to visit and it is home to the Museum of Islamic Art and the National Museum of Qatar, Souq Waqif, Al Bidda Park, the Khawr al Udayd beach, famous for its sand dunes, Banana island, as well as Al Jassasiya, the place where you see surreal ornaments carved out in rocks. Tourists from Serbia may be interested in going on a safari, visiting modern Bedouin villages, riding camels, oreven sand skiing.

10. What are the things you particularly like in Serbia? How do you spend your free time?

I usually spend my free time enjoying the beautiful nature with my family and friends. I also participate in a large number of cultural events, including the ones organized by the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Belgrade, and these events are a good opportunity to connect our cultures and customs, which strengthen our relations. I cannot help but mention the pedestrian street, Knez Mihajlova and the Kalamegdan fortress, which leave a strong impression on all visitors.


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