DTI leads construction taskforce to Serbia as European Union launches £1.4bn investment programme.
Trade minister Richard Caborn is to lead a construction taskforce to Serbia this month to advise on rebuilding the region following the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic.

Arup deputy chairman Nigel Thompson, who led the Kosovo taskforce last year, has again been enlisted to co-ordinate British contractors in the initiative.

The taskforce, which will be sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry, is due to meet on Thursday. Caborn and Thompson are expected to travel to the region within days.

The move follows the lifting of a number of the sanctions imposed by the West in the aftermath of the fall of Milosevic. The European Union has already earmarked £1.4bn to rebuild the region.

Thompson said that, unlike Kosovo, there was the chance of lucrative contracts for UK companies in Serbia and Montenegro.

This is the centre of the Balkans region and richer than Kosovo

nigel Thompson, Arup

He said: “The immediate need is humanitarian. But there are real opportunities for long-term business in this area for contractors. This is the centre of the Balkans region and richer than Kosovo.” The taskforce will include representatives from Bovis Lend Lease, which will advise on construction needs; Amec, which will examine infrastructure requirements; Mott MacDonald, which will advise on restoring and rebuilding power stations; and some smaller UK firms. Representatives from the British Consultants Bureau and the Export Group for Construction will also join the taskforce.

Bureau chief Collin Adams visited the region last year soon after the end of NATO’s bombing campaign and spoke to a number of local contractors about the possibility of working with British contractors and consultants in the event of sanctions being lifted.

Arup’s Thompson, who met with EU officials last week, said the immediate need was to get the region’s power stations and energy supplies running again, but added that a number of bridges that were destroyed in the bombing were blocking the River Danube and would have to be removed and rebuilt as soon as possible.

He said: “There are a number of good local contractors, but they need some modern equipment.” n Thompson has been awarded the Institution of Civil Engineering’s first International Medal for his work in the reconstruction of Kosovo.