Keynote address of Ivica Dacic, Prime Minister Nominee of the new government of the Republic of Serbia

Belgrade, 26 July 2012

Esteemed Members of Parliament, honourable Speaker of the Parliament, dear citizens of the Republic of Serbia, I presume that everybody expects that I, as Prime Minister Nominee of the new Government of the Republic of Serbia, give an encompassing expose abounding with talk about general issues. The time we live in imposes a different approach. I hope that we can all agree that Serbia is going through one of the most difficult periods in its history.

I believe that I will not overestimate the difficulty and complexity of our state and national problems if I mark these past decades as a historical crisis of the Serbian people. The establishment of a realistic and achievable policy of the government of the Republic of Serbia, which I today represent before the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and before the entire Serbia, depends on a true and critical insight into our political, economic and cultural reality, particularly the unenviable foreign policy position of Serbia in the modern world and the unresolved problem of Kosovo.

Changes in the social system did not yield the expected results. Serbia is still a country of failed expectations and missed opportunities. Cardinal mistakes were made, some of them in the privatisation of state owned assets were criminal by nature, and the large economic potential of the country was ruined. We entered a state of general poverty and witnessed a decline of living, economic, cultural and civilization standards of Serbian society.

Contrary to the common self-infatuation of political leaders with their historical role, the crucial question for the destiny and future of the Serbian people is whether we know where we are going, what Serbia looks like today and what kind of Serbia we want and which dream we want to fulfil. Who are our allies on this journey? 

All these questions refer not only to the political power or opposition in Serbia, but to the entire Serbian society. Instead of divides, discord and migration, we need consolidation of all the best that Serbia has. Each new government spoke of the pillars of its new policy, and we all forgot the foundations of Serbia. Therefore the primary goal of me as Prime Minister and of the Government of the Republic of Serbia shall be to strengthen the foundations of Serbia. Our aim shall be assembling and consolidating the most prudent people and ideas in the interest of Serbia. 

Our faith in a better and peaceful tomorrow should be based on realistic evaluation of our strength and the respect of objective conditions in which we are to resolve difficult national and state problems and build a legal and social state. We have all the reasons to give up the demagogic optimism based on the “no alternative” policy. We must overcome this national and social apathy within our social consciousness; we must regain the people’s trust in a strong and respected Serbia. Our life is indeed hard, we are lagging behind greatly, but we are a people with the strength for a true rebirth.

Political actors in Serbia are mostly concerned with the past, with an emphasis on an ideological valorisation of certain events, procedures and personalities, but the main consequences of this are divisions among us. 

In the capacity of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia I would like to work on the future of our country and our people. I do not wish and I will not be concerned with partitions, either the current ones or those from the 1990s, or the divides during the communist period, or the division into Chetniks and Partisans; I am not interested in dynastic divisions, or divisions into native inhabitants and newcomers, or civil or national factions, or any divides based on national or religious affiliation. 

During my term of office I wish to build an integral vision of Serbia’s future, together with citizens and their communities, organisations and institutions and the academic community, as well as to make a decisive first step towards that future. This government of the Republic of Serbia shall be a government of future, and not the one looking back into the past.

Ladies and gentlemen Members of Parliament, dear citizens of Serbia, the programme of each new government in a democratic society is a result of electoral platforms of those political groups that gained the citizens’ trust in the elections. 

Aware of the difficult situation Serbia is in at the moment in terms of its commitment to implement comprehensive social reforms that are a prerequisite for further development and improvement of our homeland, as well as of the requirements for achieving a broader political consensus, as soon as I was granted mandate to form a new government by President of Serbia Mr. Tomislav Nikolic, the electoral lists of the Serbian Progressive Party, the Socialist Party of Serbia, the Party of United Pensioners of Serbia and United Serbia, as well as the United Regions of Serbia reached an agreement on joint political goals in forming a parliamentary majority, later joined by Rasim Ljajic’s Social Democratic Party of Serbia and Sulejman Ugljanin’s Party of Democratic Action. 

In accordance with the parliamentary procedure, I shall present the future government’s framework, which is a list of tasks, objectives and liabilities of our future government.

The biggest and the most difficult problem Serbia is faced with is a demographic issue: to halt the biological decline and extinction of this nation and to create conditions for the growth of the population’s vital force. Population renewal can only be achieved through coordinated activities to create all prerequisites for encouraging an increase of birth-rate, starting with motivating families to have more children, through providing help to married couples who need artificial insemination, to offering more help to pregnant women and new mothers, increasing social care for children, abolishing taxes and limiting margins on baby equipment. 

The fact that there are forty thousand more deaths than newborn babies in Serbia each year must be the last warning for the introduction of emergency measures in this remit. If such a trend continues, in two or three centuries at the most there will be no one left in Serbia.

Of the total of 4,706 inhabited places in Serbia, not a single child was born in 2010 in 1,140 of them, which is 24.2% of the total number of settlements in Serbia. Of 165 municipalities in Serbia, excluding Kosovo-Metohija, population growth was recorded only in eight: Grocka, Zvezdara, Novi Sad, Sjenica, Novi Pazar, Tutin, Bujanovac and Presevo. 

We lost a lot of people in wars and now we are inexorably moving towards self-destruction. It is high time we ended this trend. Therefore the government of Serbia shall come out not with a strategy, but with concrete measures for putting a stop to the biological disappearance of Serbia.

The grave economic and social situation is also one of the biggest and most difficult problems. Economic recovery and renewal are national priorities of the time we live in. 

All other key objectives of this government, such as the European future of Serbia, resolution of the issue of Kosovo-Metohija, regional cooperation, fight against crime and corruption, education, health and others depend on whether we are capable of achieve an economic survival of our country. 

This is why today I call for a conclusion of a social agreement between the government, the employees and the employers. The subject of economic consensus should be an economic policy of development whose final goal shall be the increase of the living standard of impoverished citizens of Serbia. 

Today, we have two connected problems in Serbia. The first is the total impoverishment of society and the difficult situation of our economy and citizens. The other major problem is enormous social differentiation into a large number of the poor and one percentage of the privileged and rich who stand out from the rest of society and by their arrogance and greed can be labelled as the new aristocracy. 

Such a situation of immense social differences undermines the stability of the state and society. Political power cannot be an instrument in the hands of the powerful and the rich; in Serbia – and I am here referring to the government of the Republic of Serbia – political power must be an instrument in the hands of the people, the purpose of which is accomplish a fairer division of social wealth. 

Such a situation is also a blow to the constitutional order of Serbia, because by Constitution, Serbia is defined as a state of social justice. Each nation has a soul. The soul of Serbia is equality, and equality is not egalitarianism, it is not mercy, it is solidarity.

Therefore the economic policy that I as Prime Minister shall represent shall not call upon savings and tightening the belt for our citizens whose living standard in the previous period was dramatically reduced. This government, this parliament and all other parts of state authorities, including the financial sector, must share the destiny of their people, primarily in socio-economic terms. 

You cannot call for freezing or decreasing salaries and pensions and at the same time increase your own and already high salaries and not reduce any privileges that you have as bearers of political and economic power. The role of the state in this period is to help its people survive the economic crisis in the least painful manner. 

I see the role of the state as requirement need to help both citizens and the economy, and all others who require assistance. I shall invite all social structures to meet with me and ask them two questions only. First, what can the state do to help you? And second, what can you do for the state and the people? 

Serbia is in a very difficult socio-economic situation. The average net salary fell to approximately €340, and even Albania is ahead of us in this respect. The unemployment rate has exceeded 20%. Serbia is perhaps the only country in Europe with an even number of those who work and those who receive pensions. 

Only half a million people participate in the creation of new values, in actual production, while the rest are employed in branches dealing with redistribution, such as trade and finances, and upgrading, such as public administration, education, etc. As Prime Minister I shall create a National Council for Economic Recovery to gather the most competent, most successful and most professional Serbian experts in economy and finances. We will do everything in our power to stop the decline of our national economy, to secure its recovery and strengthening.

The highest price of capital, the most unstable exchange rate, the highest unemployment rate, the lowest average income, insufficient encouragement to exporters and the lowest agricultural subsidies in the region diminish the competitiveness of our enterprises and Serbia’s credibility on a daily basis. 

This government shall therefore be committed to creating a business environment that shall provide all our enterprises with equal, if not better, working conditions compared to the neighbouring countries. Here I primarily have in mind a stable national currency, a more favourable price of capital, state subsidies, more efficient administrative procedure, encouragement to exporters and agricultural subsidies – in a word, a fair and partner relation toward the economy bearing in mind that enterprises in Serbia, whether in domestic or foreign ownership, are a source of revenues for the budget, a basis of stability of the entire financial sector and the main pillar of workers’ living standard.

There are three things I would ask of businessmen. One: not to dismiss their employees and to make sure their salaries are paid regularly. Two: to pay their taxes and to do business in line with the law. Three: to invest in Serbia and not to take their capital abroad.

Serbia must have a clear economic development strategy, based on what Serbia has and what our comparative advantages are. And these are agriculture and the food industry, energy and infrastructure.

These are the braches that the new investment cycle should start with. At the beginning of the Great Depression, one of the most prominent economists, John Maynard Keynes, said that machine of economy worked, but that they had problems with getting it started. In the time of crisis, the state and financial sectors play a decisive role in getting the machine of national economy started. 

The government of Serbia shall strive to initiate large investment projects in agriculture, energy and infrastructure. The example of this year’s drought shows that a missed opportunity in large investment works in agriculture through irrigation not only diminishes potential in agricultural production in normal conditions, but also causes direct drought damages in only one year which exceed the total investments we had missed in the last several years. This year’s drought damages are estimated at billions of Euros. 

The level of Serbia’s debt in terms of GDP is much lower than in other European countries; however, our problem does not lie in the level of indebtedness, but in a low domestic product that still keeps declining. 

Only by increasing our domestic product can we lower the percent of our debt. A particular problem is the unfavourable structure of domestic product, which comprises a high percentage of financial and other services, and a relatively low percentage of the real sector, therefore we are today faced with the challenges of reindustrialisation that must provide optimal restructuring of our economy. 

Apart from the state, the financial sector plays a decisive role in initiating a new investment development cycle. Our situation is similar to the analysis described by Nobel Prize winner Krugman: we have a lot of people not working at all or not working enough, we have capacities that are not being used, natural resources that are not exploited and we have frightened investors and a financial sector insufficiently utilised for our economic development. 

My criticism of the financial sector that stirred up the broader public was the message that it has to serve economy revival more than it has so far. This is also in the interest of the financial sector itself. We keep hearing claims that our financial sector is stable, and meanwhile our economy is disintegrating and disappearing. There is no stable financial sector if the economy is facing problems, because this sector is a reflection of our economy. Proof of this are problems that are already emerging in some banks, such as the rate of more than 25% of irrecoverable economic loans. The global financial crisis occurred at a time when the financial sector thought it existed for its own purposes, and not that it is in the service of realistic economy. 

Successful performance of banks and regular budget revenues are achievable goals and they can be accomplished only on the basis of successful economy and suppression of gray economy. Attracting foreign investments is also one of the most important priorities of the government and a way to revive our economy.

The dilemma between development and saving is a false one. Serbia needs both. Anyway, this is a subject and a formula that is being discussed in the EU right as we speak. The right solution lies in the decrease of irrational consumption and increase of investment consumption in order to encourage economic growth and increase employment. We must save on bureaucratic and unnecessary expenses in order to be able to invest more in development. The attempt to place the burden of saving on the huge layers of impoverished population is not only socially unjust, but also is economically unfounded because it directly causes a decline of the purchasing power and in turn affects the solvent demand, thus exerting influence on the inability to sell finished products. 

Even Henry Ford, the father of modern industry, realised that he had to give his employees salaries that would enable them to by his cars, and that his cars had to have a price that should conform to his workers’ salaries. 

Once this balance is disturbed and people are left without decent salaries, production looses its perspective.

Recently we have witnessed a drastic weakening of the national currency. Compared to September 2008, our national currency has dropped by 53%. Salaries and pensions lost their value, instalment rates of housing and other loans have multiplied and the balances of many companies have suffered permanent damage. 

Absurdly enough, this is a period in which our foreign currency reserves increased multifold. The state simply cannot turn a blind eye to this. The failure of the National Bank of Serbia and the Serbian government to defend the national currency directly resulted in the impoverishment of citizens of Serbia and our economy. 

Serbia needs a plan for a stable national currency. This plan has to be a result of a coordinated and common policy of the government, monetary authorities and the economy. A more efficient usage of monetary policy instruments, more active attraction of foreign investments, prevention of the outflow of foreign currencies via gray routes, cooperation with our diaspora, discouragement of needless import, strengthening companies that substitute import and a serious export strategy are the most important elements of this plan. 

The experience of some developed countries tells us that today, more than ever, it is necessary to revive and strengthen the partnership between the state and banks. Every economy needs liquid banks with enough capital that will provide an inflow of capital into the system and the movement of a new investment cycle, while banks need more that ever a stable and reliable environment that has to be guaranteed by the state. Therefore I urge banks to remain, in these very hard moments, a reliable factor of our economic system and provide adequate support to the economy and society. 

Urgent measures are necessary in order to cut the budget deficit. This programme of measures will be adopted by the end of September, after evaluating the real condition of the budget, a comprehensive analysis and serious consultations with businessmen, trade unions and experts. 

On one side, measures have to be radical in order to reduce bureaucracy and eliminate state expenditures, and on the other hand they have to be socially responsible in terms of protection of the most vulnerable layers of society. The Government of the Republic of Serbia will continue talks with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other international financial institutions and organisations in order to achieve macroeconomic stability and sustainable economic development.

A new law on public procurement will be passed very soon which will increase transparency of the process, decrease corruption and allow for the reduction of state expenditures.

There will be no freezing of salaries and pensions. Their growth in the first year has to be harmonised with the real possibilities of the budget, respecting the principle that the growth of pensions should follow the growth of salaries in the public sector. All pensioners whose salary is below RSD15.000 per month will be given the 13th pension in four equal parts. 

We will create conditions for the establishment of a development bank as a support to the economy and national development projects. Dear Members of Parliament, as an old European nation, in the processes of unification of Europe and fulfilment of the conditions for accession to the European Union, we will invest our most valuable traditions – love of freedom, democratic spirit and respect for European values. 

The fulfilment of the conditions for Serbia's accession into the European Union should be considered as an act for general civilization progress of our country. Our aim is to accelerate the process of European integration, along with the highest efforts for obtaining the date of the beginning of negotiations with the EU. This government will conduct necessary systemic measures and fulfil criteria determined by the European Council in Copenhagen which are necessary in the process of stabilisation and association. 

The main reform elements are establishing a market economy that is functional, achieving macroeconomic stability, strengthening the rule of law, fight against corruption and organised crime. The state needs to be regulated and that can be achieved through laws.

Serbia will not recognise Kosovo. The Government of Serbia wants normalisation of life of all citizens on the territory of Kosovo-Metohija. It is necessary to implement everything that is agreed in the technical dialogue with Pristina and continue a dialogue on political level, with the participation of highest state officials. 

We will solve the question of Kosovo-Metohija by peaceful means, by improving dialogue and respecting democratic solutions. In that sense, we will accept the results of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina achieved by the previous Serbian government so far. 

We want to have a greater responsibility in dialogue with the European Union and Pristina, and we want to raise this responsibility to a higher level. This will require intensive talks throughout a certain time period, but we are ready to start immediately, with no preconditions, and in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia. 

The safety of Serbs in Kosovo-Metohija must be secured. Serbian historical and cultural legacy, its churches and monasteries have to be appropriately protected and secured. The Government of the Republic of Serbia has to work hard on strengthening the economy in Serbian communities, but it also has to work on bringing Serbian refugees back to their homes. 

Serbia has to conduct its foreign policy on the basis of realistic and practical premises. We will cooperate with all the countries of the world in order to benefit Serbia. We will also cooperate with all the European countries, America, Russia, China and all other factors which shape international policy, on the basis of preserving national identity and dignity. We are prepared to cooperate with every state and nation in order to secure peace, in order to improve progress, to strengthen democracy and secure the respect for basic human values. 

Serbia wishes to be a peace and stability factor in the region, by means of supporting European perspective of the whole region. We advocate security, stability and good relations in the Western Balkans. All misunderstandings, all open questions have to be solved peacefully and through cooperation. 

It is said that the word Balkans means blood and honey; it was enough of blood, it is time for us to feel some honey. Serbia is offering a hand of reconciliation. To everybody. Let us not deal with the issues of the past anymore, let us deal with the future. We want good relations, through mutual respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of each and every state.

At the same time, within the Agreement on special relations, the Government will advocate the respect of Dayton agreement and will nurture the strongest political, business and cultural relation and cooperation with Republika Srpska.

Ladies and gentlemen, agriculture can contribute greatly to the overall economic growth within short time period if the sustainable and steady development is secured through measures of agricultural policy which will be possible to foresee in the long terms, in order for agricultural workers to be able to plan their production. 

Through measures of agricultural policy we will influence primarily bigger competitiveness of our producers and a special package of measures will deal with stimulating investments in this sector. We will separate economic from social measures, and pay special attention to rural development in synergy with local self-government and Autonomous Province of Vojvodina with the aim of equal regional development. We will launch a reform of the Directorate of Commodity Reserves in order to develop new instruments for stabilisation of the food market. By reforming advisory services and encouraging agricultural husbandries to associate, by developing a system of national laboratories and strengthening institutional capacities, we will enable technological progress and stronger competitiveness of our agricultural workers.

We plan to use our human, sun, water and wind resources in the quickest and best way possible for high production of food and energy. Very soon a strategy for the development of agro-industry will be prepared, as transfer for further development of agriculture and countryside. We will apply the latest scientific achievements, to put an end to a shift between fertile and infertile years. We will invest more money into irrigation systems, agricultural workers will get favourable loans, in order for this draught to be the last one and not the fifth in a row in the last decade. We want Serbia to be a great exporter of food, to become “the garden of Europe”.

The process of joining the EU, especially in the pre-accession period will cause significant problems in this sector, but it is a fact that the agricultural sector will be the one to benefit the most from entering the EU. One of the major problems is the fact that in the pre-accession period Serbia is opening its borders for products coming from the EU and has to adapt to very demanding standards in order to export to the EU market. According to the current agreement, the process of liberalisation with the EU will be finished in 2014, when the average customs duty will be 2.49 per cent, and Serbia will be the only country to have been, , exposed to strong competition for such a long time during the process of joining the EU without the possibility to use funds for strengthening competitiveness of its agriculture. This kind of agreement on liberalisation was signed with the idea that Serbia will become an EU member relatively quickly, roughly in 2015. In order to avoid negative consequences to Serbian agriculture, a new dialogue with the European Commission has to be opened and a solution to these problems has to be found. Also, we will do everything to get national accreditation for using IPARD funds as soon as possible, which can contribute significantly to rural development.

The priorities of the energy policy of Serbia will be raising its energy safety, by raising energy efficiency and investments, which will be conducted through opening new ore fields, building new hydro and thermo capacities, through investments in renewable resources of energy and through defining clear policy of prices. Then, development and raising the communal energy through production of both heat and electric energy in heating plants and gradual replacement of harmful energy products such as crude oil and coal with renewable sources, above all biomass and gas. The fourth priority will be the establishment and development of energy market, according to the standards of the EU – electric energy, gas, oil derivatives and liquid oil gas. During the mandate of this Government of the Republic of Serbia we expect the termination of the South Stream gas pipe line through Serbia with a length of 411km and a value of €1.9 billion. The construction of the South Stream in Russia will start in December this year.

The Government of Serbia will not privatise private utility company the Electric Power Industry of Serbia, and we will keep majority ownership in other strategically important companies that have monopoly position on market such as railway, postal service, airport etc. At the same time the reform of public companies will be conducted in order to obtain more efficient management, improvement of quality and competitiveness of their service. Management of public companies will be highly professional and the Government will take over the controlling role. 

We will pay special attention to natural resources of our country and we will provide greater investments in energy and mine sectors, as well as in the traffic and telecommunication infrastructure.

The establishing of legal state and rule of law is a base for making legal security of individuals and entire society because it encourages economic growth, investment and competitive business, and it is also one of the basic preconditions of economic, social and political development of Serbia. All negative consequences and conditions in the judiciary and reform of the judiciary from the previous period have to be removed. Cooperation of all public authorities dealing with law enforcement is necessary in order to obtain more efficient, systematic and uncompromising fight against crime and corruption. The Government of Serbia will investigate all suspicious privatisations that are even mentioned in European Commission’s reports. The Government of Serbia will lead a harsh fight against organised crime and in cooperation with democratic world it will fight against all forms of terrorism. 

The Government of the Republic of Serbia will continue with the reform of the defence and security sector with the aim of making the military, police, and security service the main pillar of protection of citizens and the state, and at the same time it will strengthen the mechanisms of civil control of their work in order to prevent abuse of authority. I support the request for opening classified files of secret and police services in a way that will not jeopardise the country’s security system. 

We will advocate transparency of work, clear and regulations that will help reduce self-initiative acts of employees and officials that are in a position to decide on someone else’s rights and interests and that is the basic precondition for eradication of corruption. We will apply all preventive measures for the suppression of the conflict of interest in all areas. We will continue our cooperation with significant international organisations and agencies in fight against drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms smuggling and other serious forms of international crime. A special attention will be paid to implementation of all the necessary antiterrorist measures in cooperation with all countries in the region.

We will conduct the highest rationalisation of public administration. We will cut unproductive expenditures and abolish unnecessary state authorities and agencies. In that way the state expenditures will be decreased and efficiency of administration work will be increased. We will decrease red tape and accelerate the work of administration. We will establish offices for swift response at all levels, therefore citizens and companies will be able to obtain more efficient state service in one place. We will introduce electronic management at all levels, which means that citizens will not have to be physically present and go from one authority to another, and waste their time and money collecting the necessary documents that are stored in the registries of the Republic of Serbia in order to submit a request. 

In order to have a more rapid development, all parts of Serbia should have equal chances. We will pay special attention to decreasing regional differences in order to have more equal regional development. We will form special teams for economic development of the most underdeveloped or strategically most important parts of the Republic of Serbia. 

The Government of the Republic of Serbia will respect the achieved degree of autonomy of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina prescribed by the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and the Statute of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. The Government of the Republic of Serbia has no reason for different policy towards Vojvodina because that is an autonomy in Serbia, not against Serbia. In that sense, the Government of the Republic of Serbia will cooperate with provincial authorities confronting all the extreme attitudes either concerning requests for the abolishment of the autonomy, or concerning threats of internationalisation of the issue of autonomy of Vojvodina, because it will not be jeopardised by this government of Serbia. 

The Government of the Republic of Serbia will provide equal development of traffic infrastructure. Apart from finalisation of main traffic corridors, it will build a motorway from Belgrade towards western Serbia – Corridor 11, motorway from Pojate to Preljina – West Morava Corridor, linking the city of Kragujevac with Corridor 10. We will build a regional motorway which will connect Zajecar and Bor with Corridor 10, near Paracin, and will also connect Loznica and Sabac with Corridor 10 and further across Ruma, by tunnel through Fruska Gora till Novi Sad etc.

It is also necessary to build modern telecommunication optical infrastructure. Modern electronic communications and broadband Internet access should be equally provided to citizens and businesses in all parts of Serbia.

The health care system that we will try to provide is based on the principles of equal and general access and availability of health care institutions, doctors, and medicines to patients. The right to health is a fundamental human right. Health is also a public, and not only a private good. The state is held responsible for the protection of citizens' health. All citizens of Serbia should be included in health insurance based on the principles of solidarity, equality, and universality. In the long run, we will strive for fully free health service, while in the short run for reducing participation fees, and for extension of the list of health services and medicines available on prescription and covered by compulsory health insurance funds. 

We also believe that a law on the protection of patients' rights should be adopted based on European standards.

Knowledge and education are the backbone of changes that we need to implement in order to become, as soon as possible, a democratically developed and economically stable society, prepared for and capable of European integration. 

That is why we need to ensure a stable education system so that education can become the driving force of changes. The major goals of education development are enhanced availability, fairness and equality in education, increased quality of education and better efficiency of the education system. It is particularly important that we ensure equal educational opportunities for everyone, irrespective of their social status or origin and to increase the number of educated citizens. The state must maintain and improve free primary and secondary education, provide free course books, encourage high-level education and invest in the development of education-related infrastructure. We aspire to have the allocations for education increased year by year.

Our strategic goal is to create a knowledge-based society. In order to achieve that, we will increase investments in infrastructure projects in the field of science and scientific research, with the participation of industry and private sector in science financing as a partnership between those who create scientific innovations and knowledge and those who are direct science and knowledge users.

The Government of the Republic of Serbia will guarantee and continue to enhance all legislation related to human and minority rights in line with highest international legal standards in Europe and developed world. We are determinedly committed to implementing politically responsible and legally guaranteed antidiscrimination policy and protection of rights and freedoms of members of national minorities, as well as rights and freedoms of other minority groups. State authorities and government bodies must be open for all citizens of Serbia, irrespective of their national, religious or any other diversity. As the next Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, I would like to state clearly that no citizen of Serbia can be discriminated because of not being a Serb, while on the other hand no Serb in Serbia can be discriminated for being a Serb living in communities where other nationalities constitute the majority.

In particular, I would like to commend very good cooperation I have had as Minister of the Interior with the Hungarian national minority and the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians, which has significantly contributed to the reduction of inter-ethnic incidents in recent years and their decrease to a 10-year minimum.

Speaking of the south of Serbia, we would like to offer Albanians to integrate into Serbian political and social system, while fiercely fighting crime, extremism, and terrorism together. As any other modern and democratic state, we want to reach an agreement on living together with a view to peace and stability both for Serbs and Albanians living in the south of Serbia.

We believe that it is necessary to reform the legislation that need to contribute to the creation of an open democratic society, by providing conditions for impartial, free and quality journalism, and achievement of the constitutional principle of the citizens' right to true and full information. Together with associations of journalists, we will propose amendments of the relevant laws, in particular the laws on information, broadcasting, and telecommunications. They should be adapted not only to meet the requirements of further democratisation, but to fit cutting edge technologies as well. We will fight against censorship and for relieving journalists of political pressures, and those coming from editors, owners and other power hubs. Monopoly and political control over media should be prevented. In line with the requests of domestic, European and global associations of journalists, publicity and transparency of the media ownership structure should be ensured, while preventing concentration of ownership that exceeds European standards. Neither I nor the Government of Serbia have or shall have the wish to do someone else's job. 

Therefore, this Government will not have its spin doctors to be occupied with editing in the media. And wherever we can, but without jeopardising people's existence and media survival, we will try to leave the ownership structure. 

The media scene requires some conditions to be met for normal work, the rules that we are going to adopt together with media representatives, as well as the transparency of government activities in the first place and media activities. That's the reason why we support the initiative to adopt a law on media ownership transparency. I do not hide that I am the Prime Minister or what I do; therefore, I expect those who are going to write about my work and the Government's work not to hide either. In this context, the latest change in "Politika" ownership shall be examined. The public also need to know how much money belonging to public enterprises were spent for marketing campaigns in certain media, and whether thus the money belonging to citizens and Serbia was used to gain the favour of those media for political parties to which the directors of those public enterprises belonged. Regarding media, freedom of speech and right to truth shall be a postulate of this Government. That is why there must not be any secrets in investigations of unsolved murders of journalists. 

I call upon associations of journalists to gain insight into the findings of the investigations and current proceedings.

The Government of Serbia shall maintain good cooperation with church and religious communities present on the territory of the Republic of Serbia respecting and protecting the freedom of religion. All fundamental laws and bylaws governing the relations between the state and society on one hand and the church and religious communities on the other are in place. Now it is necessary, through an efficient and fully operational body, to do whatever it takes to apply fully the said legislation. The Ministry of Faith, as an independent body, does not exist in any modern European state. Merging this sector with another one would make this important field absurd. The future Office of the Government of Serbia for Cooperation with Churches and Religious Communities will significantly improve building constructive relations between the state and the Serbian Orthodox Church and other traditional churches and religious communities.

The Government of Serbia will continue to maintain and strengthen links with our countrymen worldwide, as well as special links with the countries in the region where a significant number of our countrymen live. We will support and ensure fulfilment of all legitimate interests and rights of our Diaspora – from regulating the citizenship, providing for extra lessons in schools, and involvement in the economic development of Serbia, to taking part in the elections for state authorities in Serbia. The absence of the relevant Ministry does not mean less concern; on the contrary, such concern must not be only declarative any longer.

Ladies and gentlemen, the aim of this Government of Serbia, with regard to carrying out state affairs, is not to enquire who belongs where, but only what the people in question are like. We are ready to work together in the interest of Serbia, particularly in the area of the EU accession negotiations and addressing state and national issues, such as Kosovo and Metohija. Also, the principle of active partnership with expert community needs to be applied in the work of every minister or head of a state authority. I will request that every one of them develop a map of key actors in their field of work and inform me regularly about the way they maintain communication. I will particularly insist on being regularly informed by all ministers about the implementation of recommendations given by independent bodies, in particular the Ombudsman, other parliamentary commissioners, Anti-Corruption Agency, State Auditor, etc.

The power of the executive branch in Serbia is vested in the Government of the Republic of Serbia. It defines and pursues its policies. The Government is accountable to the National Assembly for the general policy of the Republic of Serbia, for the implementation of laws and other general legislation adopted by the National Assembly, and for the work of government bodies. Ministers are accountable for their work and state-of-play within their purview to Prime Minister, Government, and National Assembly. They are accountable to the people of Serbia. A new four-year match with challenges is ahead of us as well as the struggle for the well-being of all Serbian citizens. The people are the only selector, they decide whether we are good or not, whether we should be in the team or not. If we want to have a state of strength, fairness, and solidarity, it requires a spectrum of new rules that will be passed in agreement with the entire society. The new rules are not to be an expression of will of the ruling elite, but the outcome of the agreement between state, economy sector, trade unions, media, associations, financial institutions. Law and order must be the same for everyone, from politicians, through large capitalists, to common citizens. What is relevant for this Government is what and how to do things, rather than what and how to say things. We want to promote results and we do not need any other PR than that. We will not talk about burning issues. We will put them out. And do our best to prevent them.

Justice and equality for everyone, especially those who during transition lost their jobs and incomes, shall be the priority of this Government. Providing work and setting Serbia in motion, creating new jobs, finding a way to restart our own production, with our workers, in our factories – this will be our major concern. We also need to say publicly where Serbia is truly Serbia, where Serbian laws apply and where it is not the case, and then to adopt a consensus-based policy that this Government will stand up for. These issues are certainly the hardest ones, but that's why we need to respond swiftly. We need to say what we want, and what we don't want, and to stand by it so that nobody can reproach us for making promises and then failing to keep them. Or to avoid something even worse – to promise ourselves to do something we will not be able to do.

Equality – gender, labour, ethnic... – will be the pivot of this Government's policy. Women shall certainly be in the focus. In Serbia, women earn less than men, doing the same jobs and having the same qualifications. This is the biggest discrimination in Serbia today, but in other European countries as well. It has to change.

All which is neglected, forgotten, abused, and rejected in Serbia, but however valuable, has to retake the place it deserves. There are entire parts of Serbia that need to revive, to get the infrastructure, economy, jobs, and to become places where people will return not to die, but to live there.

Allow me just to mention some things not mentioned by a Prime Minister Designate in his keynote address for a long time – patriotism, the sense of belonging to, love and respect for one's Serbia, feeling no hatred towards others, Serbia coming first for all of us.

Esteemed Members of the Parliament, esteemed Speaker of the National Assembly, esteemed citizens of Serbia, it is my privilege to propose the following composition of the Government of the Republic of Serbia:

Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Ivica Dacic
First Deputy Prime Minister Responsible for Defence, Security and Fight Against Corruption and Minister of Defence Aleksandar Vucic
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Policy Jovan Krkobabic, PhD
Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Suzana Grubjesic
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and Domestic Trade and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic, PhD
Minister of Finance and Economy Mladjan Dinkic, MSc
Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivan Mrkic
Minister of Regional Development and Local Self-Government Verica Kalanovic, MSc
Minister of Transport Milutin Mrkonjic
Minister of Civil Engineering and Urban Planning Velimir Ilic, MSc
Minister of Justice and Public Administration Nikola Selakovic
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management Goran Knezevic
Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development Prof. Zarko Obradovic, PhD
Minister of Health Prof. Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic, PhD
Minister of Energy, Development and Environmental Protection Prof. Zorana Mihajlovic, PhD 
Minister of Culture and Information Bratislav Petkovic
Minister of Natural Resources, Mining and Spatial Planning Prof. Milan Bacevic, PhD
Minister of Youth and Sport Alisa Maric, PhD
Minister without Portfolio Sulejman Ugljanin, PhD

Ladies and gentlemen, given the present time, no one is a wizard capable of solving all the problems that Serbia is facing. However, citizens of Serbia expect more justice, an assistance-providing state, and a determined, responsible, and efficient Government that will share the destiny of the entire nation. They also expect politicians who can be trusted. Therefore, I call upon you, ladies and gentlemen – Members of Parliament, to support the appointment of the new Government of the Republic of Serbia. 

In closing, allow me to thank the previous Government of the Republic of Serbia and Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic for cooperation in carrying out responsible state duties. I would like to say to the opposition that we are not political enemies, and although we are political opponents, I expect that we will cooperate in respect of decisions and laws that are crucial for the people and state. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Members of Parliament, esteemed Speaker of the National Assembly, esteemed citizens of Serbia, the Government to be elected today will be the smallest Government in the recent history of the multi-party system in Serbia (since 1990), with only the Government of Vojislav Kostunica of 2004 having the same number of members. This will be the smallest Government since 1990, and, with God's help, the best one.

As always, I will finish this political address with reference to what I believe is the most important: