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Europe

Serbia Paves Way for New Coalition Government

After a marathon session on Friday night, the Serbian parliament passed a law paving the way for a new cabinet headed by economist Mirko Cvetkovic.

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Mirko Cvetkovic will lead the new Serbian cabinet

Parliament, in a sitting filibustered by the opposition, also passed a law on 24 ministries. The two laws were necessary for the parliament to start debating the new government. The debate is expected to start on Monday.

The size of Cvetkovic's government, the largest in the region with its 24 ministries and three deputy premiers, reflects the fierce haggling which produced the ruling coalition and its slim majority since May 11 snap polls.

The pro-European bloc behind President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party (DS), the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic's Socialists and four representatives of the Hungarian minority combined to make up 126 seats, the minimum majority in the assembly of 250.

Coalition agreement

The DS and the Socialists signed a coalition agreement earlier on Friday which states the principles and goals of the new Serbian government.

The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party leads the opposition now after four years in government with the increasingly nationalistic Democratic Party of Serbia of outgoing Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. The two parties have 78 and 30 seats respectively.

The government may have the support of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), with 13 votes, when it tables laws which would accelerate Serbia's stalled progress toward European Union membership.

There are three minority representatives -- two Muslim and one Albanian -- in the parliament.

Kostunica's government collapsed in March after Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia. Kostunica wanted to turn Serbia away from the EU and towards Russia. Tadic blocked this and forced elections 14 months after the previous round.

Macedonia gets a new coalition

Also on Friday, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and ethnic Albanian leader Ali Ahmeti agreed a coalition for the troubled country's new government, local media reported.

In June 1 snap parliamentary poll Gruevski's nationalist VMRO-DPMNE won by a landslide, while Ahmeti's Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) dominated in the Albanian minority, making up one-quarter of the 2.1 million Macedonians.

In the previous government, which lasted less than two years, Gruevski partnered with the bitter rivals of the DUI, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

The rivalry between the DUI and the DPA stirred violence which marred the June 1 elections and forced a repeat vote at nearly 200 polling stations in Albanian-dominated north-western Macedonia.

Below-standard elections, as well as systemic corruption and stalled reforms have prevented Macedonia from progressing far toward European Union membership since wining the status of a candidate in 2005.

In addition, diplomatic wrangling with Athens over the name Macedonia, which Greece claims for its northern province, left it on the doorstep of NATO three months ago, while two other Balkan nations, Croatia and Albania, received a membership invitation.


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