The parties of the new ruling majority in Serbia signed a coalition agreement this week, and analysts say the new cabinet will face numerous challenges – from the issue of Kosovo and Serbia's devastated economy, to the fight against crime and corruption.
By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 12/07/12
Ivica Dacic, Serbia's prime-minister designate, said a detailed coalition agreement will make the nation stronger. [Reuters]
A coalition agreement signed on Tuesday (July 10th) by the Serbian Progressive Party, the coalition around the Socialist Party of Serbia and United Regions of Serbia, defines the common political goals of the future coalition. The text of the agreement is unusually detailed for the Serbian environment -- it has as many as 13 pages.
The agreement in nine sections explains the objectives of the future cabinet. The first listed priority is the acceleration of European integration, with maximum efforts towards getting a date to begin EU membership talks. Other important issues mentioned in the text are Kosovo and regional policy matters.
The other eight goals are: the economic and social policy, rule of law, the fight against corruption and crime, reform of the state administration, professionalisation of management of public enterprises, decentralisation and regional development, healthcare, education and science. In ninth place is freedom of the media.
Forming the coalition will lead to a government after elections that brought nationalist President Tomislav Nikolic to power in early June. The former president, Boris Tadic, sought to form a government with himself as prime minister, but failed.
After the signing of the agreement, Prime Minister-designate Ivica Dacic said this was not only "an agreement on a new government, but rather an agreement for a strong and economically developed Serbia that will protect its national interests and be a state of social justice."
The leaders of the new ruling coalition agreed they were aware of the problems they were facing. "Everyone says the insolvency of the budget is so great that the question is where we can find the funds to even pay out pensions, but our task will be to ensure the security of payments," United Regions leader Mladjan Dinkic said.
University of Belgrade professor Dejan Vuk Stankovic said the coalition agreement is very detailed, because the parties that will comprise the new cabinet have not co-operated in this makeup so far and wanted to "insure" themselves prior to the forming of the government, expected by the end of July.
"A very complicated job awaits this government. The population's expectations are high and the resources at their disposal are low. But, with the current state of the global economy and events in the region, I think it will be a success to stop the negative trends that have been burdening Serbia in several fields over the past few years," Stankovic told SETimes.
He added that previous governments had promised a great deal and enjoyed media support, but achieved very little. "The expert public doesn't expect too much from this government. That is why they may be in a position similar to that of the Serbian national football team. They're not favourites, but they can provide a pleasant surprise," Stankovic said.
Zlatko Minic, a member of the Anti-Corruption Agency Committee, said the plans of the new ruling coalition in the field of curbing corruption were "correct, but need to be applied in practice."
"It is not up to the government itself to battle corruption, but it is up to the government to ensure the smooth operation of the judiciary and the police, which do suppress corruption, and enable the passing of laws that do not stimulate corruptive behaviour," Minic told SETimes. He also said corruption would be a big challenge for the new authorities, because the EU also opens its negotiations with new members with chapters tackling the judiciary and the fight against corruption.
The new ruling coalition has also pledged to abide by all agreements reached with Pristina in Brussels. Although some analysts thought the new government would have a tougher attitude towards Kosovo, that cannot be concluded from the coalition agreement.
"Given the economic and public finance challenges that Serbia presently faces, the EU orientation remains a strategic priority, one that Serbia can't afford to turn its back on," Ian Bancroft, founder of the organisation TransConflict, told SETimes. "Despite enthusiastic Cypriot support for starting talks on membership, however, Serbia will have to continue to demonstrate its commitment to normalising relations with Kosovo."