By Maja Zivanovic
The nomination of a strongly pro-EU Prime Minister-designate has divided Serbia’s political class, with some welcoming it, others denouncing it – and others calling her appointment irrelevant.
If, as expected, Serbia’s parliament confirms Ana Brnabic as the country’s new Prime Minister, Serbia will have a strongly pro-EU oriented premier.
“Work that has started must be finished – and I have been dedicated for the last few months to introducing Serbia into the ranks of those modern states in which the public administration works efficiently and in the service of the citizens,” Brnabic told Serbia’s Tanjug news agency on Thursday, adding that she will personally be engaged in working on goals “that are bigger and more important than all of us individually”.
She is widely known for her pro-EU views. A non-party expert, she was also Serbia’s first known LGBT minister.
Bojan Klacar, director of the Center for Free Elections and Democracy, CESID, told BIRN that President Aleksandar Vucic’s choice was both expected and logical, as Brnabic is someone with whom he can clearly cooperate.
“As Prime Minister, Brnabic will not be dominant in political topics, so the heavy political issues like Serbia-Kosovo relations and foreign affairs will still be in hands of Vucic,” Klacar explained.
Klacar said it was good that Serbia had got a new Prime Minister who was strongly pro-EU, however. During the time of “former Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, there was a lack of firm and clear commitment towards the EU,” he underlined.
President Nikolic was better known for championing warm relations with Russia and its President Vladimir Putin, who, Nikolic said tellingly on March 2016, “knows all my secrets”.
The opposition Liberal Democratic Party on Thursday meanwhile said it hoped Brnabic would “cut the Gordian knot” in the region – and distance Serbia from Russia among other things.
However, the opposition Democratic Party dismissed her appointment as totally irrelevant. “The information on the name of the candidate to form the new government is completely irrelevant because Vucic is the only one deciding the fate of the nation,” the leader of the Democrats, Dragan Sutanovac, said.
Boban Stojanovic, from the Belgrade Faculty of Political Science, agreed that Vucic would keep hold most of the real political power.
“Her appointment will bring international attention to Vucic, but she doesn’t have any influence on the other ministers, so he will keep control,” Stojanovic said.
He added that choosing a non-party candidate like Brnabic as Prime Minister could create trouble for Vucic in his own party.
“It’s going to be very hard to explain to members of the Progressive Party and to their voters why he named her, as she is not a party member, nor will she be,” he said.
In January, Brnabic confirmed she would not become a member of the Progressive Party or any other party as she felt no real trust in political parties.
However, on Thursday she won the support from one senior Progressive official, Zorana Mihajlovic, who is also known for her pro-EU stance.
Ivica Dacic, head of the junior coalition party, the Socialist Party of Serbia, said he respected Vucic’s choice – but would be asking for “greater participation” by his party in the government.
However, Dragan Markovic, head of another junior partner of the Progressives, United Serbia, told Tanjug on Thursday that Brnabic would not be his Prime Minister.
The right-wing nationalist Dveri party meanwhile demanded to know from Vucic whether Brnabic was his choice or “the choice of the West”.
“No one knows who Ana Brnabic is, or what her political stances are, except that she has been working for foreign companies and NGOs all her life and got her education in the West,” Dveri said in a press release.
Another rightist movement, Nasi, asked Vucic whether Brnabic had been recommended because of her “sexual orientation or by the West”.
Confirmation of Vucic’s choice is likely to go smoothly. The Progressive Party has an absolute majority in parliament, even without votes of smaller coalition partners like United Serbia.