Serbian parties agree on pro-European coalition

June 24th, 2008 - 2:20 am ICT by IANS  

Belgrade, June 24 (DPA) Serbian parties agreed Monday to form a pro-European government, six weeks after inconclusive elections left the country in limbo between isolation and closer ties to the West. In the deal that appeared to break the impasse, the Socialist Party of former strongman Slobodan Milosevic pledged its support to President Boris Tadic’s political bloc, which wants to keep Serbia on a path toward eventual European Union membership.

The new prime minister will be from Tadic’s Democratic Party (DS), Socialist chairman Ivica Dacic told reporters after a meeting of his party’s leadership.

“It was a difficult decision but we decided … to support forming the government with the coalition led by Democratic Party,” he told reporters after a meeting of his party leadership.

Serb voters in May 11 parliamentary elections delivered no outright majority to Tadic’s camp or hardline nationalists including caretaker Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.

The outcome left the Socialists as kingmakers of a new government after Kostunica’s fell over Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in February.

In a first step, the new parliament was scheduled to meet Tuesday and choose a speaker.

Tadic and his party won the most seats in the elections - 102 in the 250-seat Belgrade parliament - while the Socialists won 20 seats with two smaller parties in tow.

Milosevic’s party first held coalition talks with the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radicals (SRS) and Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), both of which want to turn Serbia away from the European Union over Western support of Kosovo’s independence.

Speculation that Serbia was headed for a nationalist shift grew when the three sides agreed on a coalition on the local level in Belgrade, the capital.

But last week, the Socialists switched to bargaining with Tadic’s group and the party’s executive said Monday they had a deal. No details were immediately announced.

Dacic and most of his party want to break with Milosevic’s 1990s legacy of war and enter the European centre-left mainstream.

But cooperating with the DS is delicate since its former leader and prime minister, the late Zoran Djindjic, delivered Milosevic to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

“I know this decision will not be understood by part of our electorate,” Dacic said Monday, “but this is a big comeback for the Socialists and an opportunity for a new start.”

Djindjic was killed by a Milosevic-era policemen in 2003 and Milosevic died in detention three years later.

Analysts say Dacic will likely seek a major price for his support, possibly including key posts such as the interior ministry, which controls the police.

Talks between the Socialists and Democrats were expected to continue Monday.

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