BELGRADE (Reuters) - Belgrade’s main pedestrian street draws large numbers of foreign tourists every summer. This year, for the first time, foreign police officers can also be seen strolling along it.
To help cope with a growing number of Chinese tourists and workers, the Serbian police have called in reinforcements from China.
Two Serbian and two Chinese police officers patrol tourist landmarks in Belgrade - the pedestrian street, Knez Mihajlova, and Kalemegdan fortress - as well as the Nikola Tesla airport and a Chinese shopping mall on the outskirts of the city.
China includes Serbia and other Balkan countries in its ‘One Belt, One Road’ project to open up trade links for Chinese companies. It has extended loans worth billions of dollars to build railways, roads and power plants, mainly using Chinese workers.
Thousands of Chinese tourists are also visiting Belgrade and other Serbian cities.
“We have set up a hot line for Chinese people,” said police officer Jin Yao, who is from Beijing and who joined his Serbian colleagues on patrols last week.
Zoran Jovanovic, a Serbian policeman, said the Chinese officers had no power to make arrests.
“Their task is to be a link between us and tourists,” he said.
The initiative follows a memorandum of understanding between the Chinese and Serbian interior ministers signed in May that also allows for joint exercises of special police units and cooperation in fighting cyber crime.
Chinese tourists visiting Belgrade on a sunny afternoon were surprised to see police from their homeland and wanted to take ‘selfie’ photos with them.
Serbia and the Chinese electronics company Huawei have begun a project called Safe City, which envisions mounting hundreds of surveillance cameras in Belgrade and the development of facial-recognition software.
It is not the first time that Serbia has enlisted the help of foreign police forces. Several European Union nations including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Austria have been rotating groups of police officers since 2014 to Serbia’s borders to help stem the flow of illegal migrants.
Serbian policemen are also deployed on the border between North Macedonia and Greece and in neighbouring Montenegro during the summer holiday season. Turkish police are also helping out at Serbian boundary crossings.
Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Gareth Jones