After a debate that took several months, Serbia has reshuffled its government and analysts expect different things from the new ministers.
By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 09/09/13
Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic (right, with President Tomislav Nikolic), said the government reshuffle is intended to speed reforms. [AFP]
After several months of consideration within the ruling coalition and a heated three-day debate in parliament, Serbia's reshuffled cabinet is primarily expected to accelerate the country's European integration and bring about the recovery of the ailing economy.
The epilogue of the government reshuffle is that it now has one less party – United Regions of Serbia – but also 11 new cabinet members, of whom as many as six are non-party figures, which is a departure from previous Serbian governments. The cabinet is spearheaded by the Serbian Progressive Party and the Socialist Party of Serbia.
Analysts' expectations are divided – while some say no significant changes can be expected, others claim that this cabinet could be successful in European integration and the economic sphere.
The reshuffled cabinet has 18 ministries and 22 members, unlike the previous one that had one ministry less and three fewer members, and was appointed with the support of 134 of the parliament's 250 MPs. Prime Minister Ivica Dacic listed the acceleration of European integration, economic recovery, suppression of corruption and crimes, and the continuation of talks with Kosovo, which Belgrade does not recognise as an independent state, as the priorities of his cabinet.
"Today, Serbia needs everything and needs it now," said Dacic, adding that the authorities have, in their desire to speed up change, opted for reshuffling the government just a year after its forming.
The people particularly attractive to the public are the new minister of finance, Yale University-educated Lazar Krstic, who has until recently worked at global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.; Culture Minister Ivan Tasovac, who is the head of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra; and Sports Minister Vanja Udovicic, who just a month ago played for Serbia's water polo team in the European Championship.
Vanja Udovicic (right), who just a month ago played for Serbia’s water polo team in the European Championship, is the country's new sports minister. [AFP]
European Parliament Rapporteur for Serbia Jelko Kacin said that Serbian leaders had given a positive example with the comprehensive reshuffle, because "Serbia now has the potential to finally become an engine of the region's integration with the EU."
"I expect that Prime Minister Dacic's reshuffled cabinet will tackle economic challenges with additional energy and the aim of opening the first chapters in Serbia's EU membership talks as soon as possible," Kacin said.
However, head of the Transparency Serbia NGO Vladimir Goati told SETimes that the government's policy would not undergo any serious changes, and that the true objective of the reshuffle was to remove United Regions from the government and split its departments. "I don't believe anything will change as far as the policy is concerned; it will merely be led by different people now," Goati said.
University of Belgrade professor Dejan Vuk Stankovic said the reshuffle opens the way for changing the economic policy that has so far mostly been led by United Regions personnel. However, as he told SETimes, conditions for change have to be created first.
"The changes have to include an austerity policy and rationalisation of the public sector," said Stankovic, adding that Belgrade cannot hope to get closer to the EU without an agreement with Kosovo and improvement of the economic situation.
Former Serbian ambassador to France Predrag Simic said that economic stabilisation should be the new cabinet's top priority, and that the focus will now be on boosting employment. "Expectations are high, the problems are big, and resistance will be strong. I think that this government will have a high bar to jump over," Simic said.
What expectations do you have for Serbia's government? Add your thoughts in the space below.