Donald Trump’s Son-in-Law Jared Kushner Pursues Hotel Projects in Balkans

Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is pursuing hotel and apartmenr complex projects in Albania and Serbia.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is pursuing hotel and apartmenr complex projects in Albania and Serbia. Credit: Gage Skidmore. CC BY-2.0/flickr

While Donald Trump readies for another push towards the US presidency, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, is following up on hotel and apartment deals in Serbia and Albania. The projects are sure to bring growth but they also face opposition.

One of Kushner’s proposed schemes in the Balkan centers on the redevelopment of a site in Serbia’s capital Belgrade, negotiations for which were begun 10 years ago by his father-in-law.

Two years before Trump set off for his presidency campaign in 2016, he told Serbian authorities that he was keen to build a luxury hotel and apartment complex on the site of the former headquarters of the Yugoslav army, the General Staff building, decimated in 1999 by Nato’s bombing campaigns.

The former Yugoslav army general staff building, Belgrade.
The former Yugoslav army general staff building, Belgrade. Credit: ftrc. CC BY 2.0/flickr

Despite that scheme having fallen through, Kushner, who filled a senior White House official role during Trump’s presidency, has now reportedly come to an agreement with the Serbian government to move forward with the development project.

According to the New York Times, which received a draft outline, the agreement, with a 99-year lease at no charge, would allow Kushner to construct a luxury hotel, residential units, shops and a museum on the site.

Funding from Saudi Arabia

The $500 million (£462 million) of capital needed for the project is expected to come from Kushner’s investment firm, Miami-based Affinity Partners, which he founded after leaving the White House. Since the end of Trump’s tenure in office, it is estimated that Kushner has secured $2 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, while sovereign wealth funds in the UAE and Qatar have sent hundreds of millions of dollars into his firm.

Kushner shared recently that the involved parties had tentatively agreed to give the Serbian government 22 percent of the profits generated by the project. President Aleksandar Vucic and his government claim that Belgrade would do well to develop further and create more business opportunities.

Aleksandar Vucic, prime minister of Serbia.
Aleksandar Vucic, president of Serbia. Credit: World Economic Forum. CC BY 2.0/flickr

Economist and investment consultant Milan Kovacevic agreed that the city needs to diversify and allow more development in order to meet the demands of a growing population and tourism industry. “Belgrade definitely needs hotels, including those of high quality, but they should be urbanistically positioned and built where they are needed,” he told DW.

He also warned that “there should be a market” for an open and transparent bidding process, and claimed that by giving exclusive rights to just one investor – Jared Kushner – “too much is left to corruption and arbitrariness.”

Opposition politicians and building experts are reportedly confused by the interest in the development plans and some have gone as far as to call it a scandal which must be prevented. “Serbia is not a buffet, and Vucic is not a waiter. This is not his private property,” said Aleksandar Jovanovic Cuta, leader of the movement Ecological Uprising.

“The same thing is happening with our natural resources, rivers, forests, minerals. Vucic is giving away everything of value without informing the people about the contracts and the benefit for the citizens of Serbia,” he told DW.

Dorde Bobic, Belgrade’s Chief City architect 20 years ago, is not happy by the planned schemes. He said it was an arrogant move to simply demolish the former General Staff headquarters to build a few hotels, and “give away the most precious place” in the city to the “foreign force” that bombed Belgrade in 1999, and to “trade it for political or personal interests,” as reported by DW.

Jared Kushner’s Albania Hotel and Apartment project

Kushner recently announced on his social media platforms that he was “excited to share early design images for development projects that have been created for the Albanian coast.” Prime Minister Edi Rama said his country was proud to welcome the projects, but the response from Albania’s environmentally-focused communities has been more questioning.

One of the sites proposed is located in the Karaburun-Sazan Marine Park on Sazan island, which used to be a military base. The other is on the Zvernec peninsula in southwestern Albania, part of the Vjosa-Narta Protected Landscape. This region which would accommodate blocks of hotels and villas forms part of the Vlore community.

Resistance from Environmental Experts

Albania’s parliament has recently passed an amendment to the country’s law on protected areas, with the bill paving the way for the economic development of said protected areas, regardless of cautions by environmental experts.

“Law 21/2024 allows the construction of 5-star mega-resorts in protected areas. In addition, according to the decision of the National Territorial Council, the construction of almost any other project is allowed and there are no more red lines,” Mirjan Topi, an ecologist at the Agricultural University of Tirana, told DW.

“The new changes in the law no longer protect nature and protected areas in Albania,” he added. According to Topi, the amendment to the current law has been changed to facilitate Kushner’s investments.

“It is very clear that the law has been predetermined because there is no other way to explain the rush of the parliamentary majority to adopt it. Before the law was [even] decreed by the president, concrete projects emerged,” he said.

Growth for Albania’s economy with Kushner’s Hotel Plans?

At the other end of the response scale, the business community in Albania, especially the tourism sector, envisions massive economic benefits, however with a few potential setbacks.

“I consider it a very positive investment, but only if it really is a touristic investment, if [there] are villas or units for accommodation,” Besnik Vathi, CEO of the Albanian Travel and Hospitality Service told DW.

He is reportedly worried that the prospect of building residential villas would solely benefit those who invest in them.

“After the sale, there is no income for Albanian tourism. [But] investing in hotels or accommodation units will bring revenue for Albania continuously,” he told DW.

The local tourism sector and the wider economy, he said, would benefit from the creation of local jobs in Sazan and Zvernec. What concerns Vathi is the nature of the investment Kushner is pursuing and who will benefit most from it.

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