The governments of Serbia and the UAE have signed an MOU highlighting the need to develop and apply AI.

The memorandum was signed in the presence of Serbia’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, who is taking part in the World Governments Summit in Dubai. Brnabic said the memorandum will bolster closer cooperation between Serbia and the UAE in the development and application of AI, adding that it is important for her government to keep track of trends in that area.

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“The UAE has developed its own language model that serves to teach a computer something, to send it data, which it then processes and gives answers to various questions,” a Serbian Government press statement reads. “The Prime Minister said that it is practically a model like the American GPT and that Serbia signed this document so that scientific institutes, startups and others can use that model.”

The AI agreement signed by officials in Belgrade and Abu Dhabi comes on the back of stronger ties between the two countries. In September last year, Serbia and the UAE launched negotiations towards establishing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which aims to increase trade and investment flows between the two.

At the same time, the UAE is the third-largest market for Serbian exports, while foreign direct investment (FDI) has been going into sectors such as agriculture, food security, real estate, infrastructure and logistics, according to a report published by the state-operated Emirates News Agency and cited by Investment Monitor.

“It’s important for our country to follow all trends and establish partnerships with the UAE,” Brnabic said, cited by her government’s press release. “Serbia is one of the 29 countries in the world that is part of the global partnership for the development of artificial intelligence.”

However, Belgrade’s decision to step up trade and investment ties with other countries follows worsening tensions with the EU. In October, Brnabic said her country was looking to increase Chinese FDI, which is effectively at odds with recent EU efforts to tighten FDI screening rules on “economic security” grounds.

The move to attract more Chinese investors was widely condemned by critics, who view Beijing’s influence in the Western Balkans as a threat to the region’s independence and even its ability to join the EU.

Despite this, Belgrade is already ramping up surveillance at home using Chinese CCTV cameras and technologies. According to an investigation published in July 2023 by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, journalists found that streets and public squares in more than 40 cities and municipalities have been “blanketed with Chinese-made cameras”.

Serbia applied to join the EU in 2009 and has been a candidate for membership since March 2012.