Serbia’s PM Unveils Agenda in Six-Hour Speech

More privatization, higher public-sector salaries, increased investment, further EU integration and regional stability are the key objectives Aleksandar Vucic outlined in a long speech to Serbia’s parliament.

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Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic

 

Serbia’s new-old Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said in a marathon six-hour presentation of the government’s program, written on 260 pages, on Tuesday, that his key goals will be raising living standards, continuing the EU integration process and focusing on regional stability, all of which, he said, would be crucial for boosting investments.

Speaking in parliament, Vucic police and defence personnel, as well as welfare, healthcare and educational workers, can expect salary increases in future.

The dynamics of the EU integration process would influence the pace of investment, so Serbia will continue working on opening EU negotiating chapters as fast as possible, he added.

“The road to membership will be path of challenges … but … if 28 European countries could do it before us, Serbia can do it, too,” Vucic said, adding that he hoped to close the process by the year 2020.

He also announced that his government will finish the process of privatization, which he claimed previous governments lacked the courage to do.

Turning to the problem of delays and backlogs in trials, Vucic promised that 80 per cent of the old cases would be solved by 2018.

Economic, regional and political stability is a condition for new foreign and domestic investment, Vucic noted, adding that stability benefits Serbia’s international reputation and respect for it.

However, he criticized neighbouring Croatia and Bosnia for what he called their counterproductive relationship toward the Yugoslav wars of the Nineties.

“Some countries in the region, I will not talk about today, for the sake of political points, such as Croatia, are opening up old wounds and threatening regional stability,” he said.

“The relationship with Bosnia and Herzegovina is not easy, either, especially with the statements of its officials and the lack of prosecutions of those who committed crimes [in the 1990s],” Vucic said.

Relations with Croatia have deteriorated especially in recent weeks, with both countries sending diplomatic protest notes to each other.

The Serbian Prime Minister also noted that the issue of the former province of Kosovo remains a major challenge. Serbia will not recognize “the unilaterally proclaimed independence of the southern Serbian province”, he maintained.

However, he said Serbia would continue the EU-led dialogue with Pristina in the interest of regional stability and of the best possible Serbian-Albanian relations, adding that protection of Serbian assets in Kosovo would be a top priority.

“We will fight to keep control of the Trepca [mines], the Gazivoda hydro system, the infrastructure in [the ski resort of] Brezovica, and against all other unlawful attempts by the provisional institutions of government in Pristina to privatize and appropriate them,” he said.

He also emphasized the need to modernize key strategic documents in the field of security and defence due to changes that have occurred in the wider regional environment, especially emphasizing Britain’s vote to leave the EU and the failed coup in Turkey.

By the end of 2016, the government will submit a new long-term plan to parliament for the development of the defence system, which will determine the basic directions until 2025.

MPs from the several opposition parties – the Democratic Party, “Enough is Enough” and Social Democratic Party – left the session of parliament, as they said, because they did not wish to insult the dignity of parliament and of the citizens of Serbia by hearing the PM’s long speech.

They said Tuesday’s session did not follow parliamentary rules, which stipulate that the Prime Minister must give MPs seven days’ notice before unveiling the government agenda, not 24 hours, as was done in this case, since it gave MPs no time to prepare for the debate.

Opposition MPs who stayed to hear Vucic’s presentation of the program, from the Liberal Democratic Party, LDP, and Democratic Party of Serbia, DSS – said after the session that they would not vote for it.

Vucic on Monday revealed his list of potential cabinet ministers. The vote on the line-up is expected on Friday.

If the parliamentary majority backs the new team on Friday, new-old ministers will be Nebojsa Stefanovic, for the Interior, Zorana Mihajlovic at Infrastructure, Dusan Vujovic at Finance, Ivica Dacic at the Foreign Ministry, Zoran Djordjevic at Defence, Zlatibor Loncar at Health, Aleksandar Vulin at Labour, Vanja Udovicic at Sports and Jadranka Joksimovic at EU Integration.

New ministers will be Goran Knezevic, at Commerce, Branislav Nedinovic at Ecology, Nela Kuburovic at Justice, Ana Brnabic at Administration, Aleksandar Antic at Energy, Mladen Sarcevic at Education and Vladan Vukosavljevic at Culture.

Slavica Djukic Dejanovic and Milan Krkobabic will be ministers without portfolio.

Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party and its allies won 131 of the 250 seats after elections on April 24. The public has had to wait more than three months for the formation of the new government, however.

Balkan Insight 

10 August, 2016