Saudi investments in Bosnia: a gate to radicalisation?

By on April 14, 2017

Saudi Arabia has a long history of involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Since the war in the 1990s, Riyadh provided a massive flow of financial help, first straight to the struggling Bosnian government, then to a series of Saudi charities and NGOs whose main activities was to spread Wahhabism in the country and to support the small Salafi communities arose throughout rural Bosnia. Local intelligence and security operations, often prompted by the concern of several Western countries, managed to significantly curb some of the murky Saudi funds to Sarajevo. Riyadh, however, found new ways to exert its influence on the Balkan country, financing infrastructural projects worth millions of dollars (BalkanInsight, 2016), and turning Bosnia into a beneficiary of massive real estate investments aimed at tailoring the country as a primary destination for middle-class Saudi tourists (EuropeNext, 2016).

Currently, Bosnian legislation prevents foreigners from buying property directly without registering a company. This has forced several Saudi investors to establish their own real estate companies, something – however –made more difficult by the fact that nationals from Saudi Arabia need a visa to travel and make business in Bosnia. This is why the Saudi ambassador to Sarajevo, Hani bin Abdullah Muminah, has recently issued a strong plea to the Bosnian authorities to ease the restrictions on attracting foreign investments, by removing visas for Saudi citizens and allowing foreign nationals to buy real estate directly (Dnevni Avaz, February 16th).

It is still to be seen whether the call by the Saudi ambassador will be well received by the authorities in Sarajevo: as the country’s political stability and economic outlook remain frail, Bosniak elites in the country might want to ease the flow of Saudi and other Gulf States’ investments to bolster their position, both inside and outside Bosnia. A stronger Saudi presence might, however, pose further risks of radicalising a country which already figures as the second top European provider of foreign fighters to the Islamic State.

Author: Staff Analyst
Europe Next Staff Analysts conduct research and analytical studies providing analysis using openly available sources of information. Staff Analyst are responsible for systematically collecting publicly available information in a given region or a subject area to meet readers needs. The information includes traditional mass media, the internet, specialized journals, studies, conference proceedings and more.

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