World Bulletin / News Desk
The former spokesman of late war crimes convict Slobodan Milosevic took power in Serbia on Friday, telling Europe and the Balkans to forget the past and not fear the return of a political alliance that once led the country to war with NATO.
After 12 hours of heated debate, lawmakers in the 250-seat Serbian parliament voted 142 to 72 to endorse Socialist Party leader Ivica Dacic as prime minister at the helm of a coalition with nationalists.
The alliance condemns to the opposition benches the main reformers who ousted Milosevic in 2000, raising concern in the West that Serbia might veer from the path they took towards joining the European Union.
Dacic said EU membership was "a key goal", but that he would not be made to answer anymore for Serbia's dark past.
"If they say the word Balkan means 'blood and honey', there's been enough blood, it's time to feel the taste of honey too," the career politician told the assembly during a debate that ran late into the night.
"Serbia is offering the hand of reconciliation, to all. Let's not deal anymore with the past, let's deal with the future."
The West is closely scrutinising Dacic's ascent to the most powerful post in Serbia - in alliance with President Tomislav Nikolic's nationalists - for any sign that the country may drift from the EU path chosen by the seven states carved from old federal Yugoslavia.
Nikolic and the Socialists last shared power at the close of Milosevic's disastrous 13-year rule, when his forces expelled almost 1 million ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and NATO bombed in 1999 to wrest the province from him.
Dacic, 46, was Milosevic's spokesman, railing against the West. He now says Serbia's future is in the EU, but Western diplomats admit to doubts over whether he is willing and able to carry out the political and economic reforms it will take.
His government inherits an economy sliding into recession, a jobless rate of 25 percent and a shrinking, ageing population scraping by on an average net monthly wage of 340 euros ($420).
In a speech that cited economists John Maynard Keynes and Paul Krugman and American industrialist Henry Ford, Dacic dismissed calls for "belt-tightening" at the cost of pensions and pay, saying only economic growth would bring down Serbia's growing debt burden of 55 percent of output.
The West says Serbia's progress towards EU membership rests on it coming to terms with the loss of Kosovo.
Dacic said he was ready to continue EU-mediated talks with Kosovo aimed at "normalising life for all citizens". But Serbia would never recognise it as independent, he said.
The EU says it won't have to, at least explicitly, but it will have to loosen its grip on a Serb-populated slice of Kosovo's north, and stop obstructing the country's development.
That will determine how quickly the EU opens accession talks, after making Serbia a candidate for membership in March. Ex-Yugoslav republic Slovenia joined the EU in 2004. Croatia is next in 2013 and Montenegro began talks last month.
Dacic was interior minister in the last government with the reformist Democratic Party from 2008, until voters punished the Democrats for perceived elitism and an economic downturn.
The new coalition includes the technocrat United Regions bloc, whose leader Mladjan Dinkic becomes finance minister. Trying to settle markets, Dinkic says Serbia will revive a frozen loan deal with the International Monetary Fund.
Diplomat Ivan Mrkic, ambassador in Greek Cyprus under Milosevic at a time when, reformers say, millions of dollars were siphoned out of Serbia via Nicosia, became foreign minister. ($1 = 0.8130 euros)
Counter-terrorism services are now investigating the trio
Seeking privileges to benefit few to detriment of many creates environment for corruption, Pope Francis says
The nation, dogged by coups, violence and misrule since winning independence, could take a step towards rebirth if the polls go smoothly
'We have also seen reports of artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border and urged Turkey to cease such fires,' US State Department spokesman says
A second national satellite will be launched by Turkmenistan
The little worn path is home to unique geological features and ancient lakes, remnants of the region’s wet period, which ended 4000 years ago.
With its stunning rock formations remnant of a wet period in the region dating back to its ending 4,000 years ago, the Ennedi plateau is seen as a contender for a heritage listing with UNESCO.
Ansar Dine, an armed group based in northern Mali, has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack that killed at least five UN peacekeepers
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh urges Cairo to open crossing with suffocating Gaza Strip 'on permanent basis'
A Palestinian girl dwho attempted to stab a soldier was killed by Israeli soldiers
A day of violent farmers' protests in Greece blazed on into the night as police fought demonstrators in the capital for the first time over pensions and reforms
'We do need to have peace [in Syria], we need to have negotiations and for that we need to stop bombings against the civilians,' Manuel Valls says
In a statement at the Munich conference, US Secretary of State has said that Russia will continue to face sanctions unless it implement the agreements made at Minsk last year
Medvedev has said the current conditions in the world between Russia and the West are akin to a Cold War.
At least one teen may have fired fatal shots, authorities say