By Bojana Barlovac
As Progressives and Socialists start talks on posts in the new government, Washington and Brussels extend a cordial welcome, suggesting once again that they are keen to put Serbia’s past behind them.
European Union and US officials have supported the formation of a new government in Belgrade, expressing hopes that Serbia will continue on its EU course.
Stefano Sannino, Director General for Enlargement at the European Commission, said the EU has no reason not to doubt the pro-European orientation of the new leadership.
“We will carefully watch future moves of the new government in Serbia, but there is no reason not to believe that it will be pro-European,” Sannino said in a debate on the Western Balkans in Brussels on Thursday.
US State Department spokesperson Victoria Niland said that Washington will cooperate with any government in Serbia formed in a legitimate manner.
Leaders of the Progressives and Socialist-led coalition are due to open talks on the ministries in the new government on Friday morning.
This comes after Serbia’s new President, Tomislav Nikolic, on Thursday gave the Socialists’ Ivica Dacic, once the right hand of the former strongman Slobodan Milosevic, a mandate to form a government.
“[Besides the Socialists] The majority will include the Progressives, United Regions of Serbia and probably some other minority representatives in parliament,” Nikolic said.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Nikolic said the government should be small in terms of the number of ministries, efficient and responsible.
Ironically, the return to power in Belgrade of Milosevic’s former political henchmen occurred on St Vitus Day, exactly 11 years after Milosevic was extradited to the UN war crimes court, ICTY.
There he faced charges of having fomented wars in the former Yugoslavia in the Nineties, dying of a heart attack in his prison cell in The Hague in March 2006 while still on trial.
The Progressives emerged out of the ranks of the ultra-nationalist Radicals who were Milosevic’s close allies for most of the Nineties.
Given the past of the two parties, the formation of the new government raised some concerns about the future of Belgrade’s bid for European Union membership.
Serbia was granted EU candidate status in March 2012 and has been hoping to open accession talks soon.
However the cordial welcome extended by foreign governments so far suggests that the Western powers are keen to put Serbia’s past history behind them.