Prime Minister designate presents the programme of the future government whose 19 members took their oaths of office on Friday.The sound of the national anthem and the presence of a ceremonial guard marked the ceremony when Serbia’s new cabinet members took their oath of office.
They failed to be sworn in on Thursday, as was scheduled, following a ten-hour long discussion in parliament over the new government’s aims.With 17 ministries and 19 officials to run them, the government will be the smallest that the country has seen since the multi-party system returned to Serbia in 1990.
The new government, which consists of the Serbian Progressive Party, the Socialists and the United Regions of Serbia, will be headed by Ivica Dacic, leader of the Socialists and once the right-hand man of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
The debate in parliament started after Dacic presented the key points of his team’s policy.
Dacic said that the main goal was to get the country moving, raise employment, revive the economy and accelerate EU integration.
In his speech to parliament, he said he did not wish to dwell on differences, but to rally the most intelligent people and ideas to serve Serbia’s best interests. “This government will be for the future, not focused on the past,” Dacic noted.
Dacic underscored the gravity of the situation that Serbia was in, saying he would labour to achieve a broad consensus on reforms.
Economic recovery is the priority and all other goals hinge on it – Serbia’s European future, Kosovo, regional cooperation, the battle against crime and corruption, education and healthcare, he emphasized.
The government’s economic policy will not demand that people tighten their belts, he asserted.
“The role of the government during this period must be to ensure the least painful way to lead the people out of the economic crisis,” he said.
Turning to economic policy, Dacic stated the new government would resume talks with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other financial institutions.
But it would not freeze salaries and pensions, and there would be no privatization of the state-owned like power company EPS, the post office, PTT, the railway company Zeleznice Srbije and Belgrade airport.
The dilemma between development and austerity is a false one, Dacic said, adding that Serbia needed both.
By the end of September, when the situation with the budget is clear, the government will adopt urgent steps to cut the budget deficit, he said.
The goal of the new government is to speed up EU integration with a view to getting a start date for the accession talks, he pointed out. Dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina would also continue.
“Serbia will not recognize Kosovo’s  independence [but] the Serbian government wants normal life for all the people in Kosovo,” he said.
“Everything agreed at the [EU-led] technical talks with Pristina needs to be implemented and the dialogue continued on the political level, involving top government officials,” Dacic stated.
Serbia will cooperate with all countries of the world, advocating security, stability and good relations in the Western Balkans and holding out its hand in reconciliation, Dacic added.
The government will lead an efficient, systemic and uncompromising battle against crime and corruption, and will investigate all suspicious privatizations, he noted.
The government will also respect the autonomy of the Province of Vojvodina and will continue to improve human and minority rights; it will offer ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia an opportunity to integrate into the political and social system, he continued.
“In this age we live in, no one is a wizard, able to solve all the problems that Serbia faces. But the Serbian people expect more justice, a government that helps them and a resolute, responsible and efficient government, which will share the fate of the entire nation,” he said.
“They expect politicians who can be trusted,” Dacic concluded.