Serbia's ruling coalition will by the end of this week finalise the reshuffle of the government, in which the most striking choices are the selection of the new finance minister is Lazar Krstić (29), a young expert with a degree from Yale, and the one of the new economy minister, a consultant Saša Radulović, who also studied and worked in the US.
The two are going to be the driving force of the announced economic and financial reforms.
Political developments in Serbia are followed closely by Brussels. The European Union afforded Serbia candidate status for EU membership in March 2012. The 28 June EU summit conclusions say that the first intergovernmental conference on Serbia's accession would be held “in January 2014 at the very latest”.
The introduction of these two new ministries is also the only change in the structure of the reshuffled cabinet, given that there was before a single Ministry of Finance and Economy, headed by United Regions of Serbia leader Mladjan Dinkić.
After the United Regions' departure from the ruling coalition, the economy and finance were taken over by Aleksandar Vučić's Serbian Progressive Party, the country's biggest party, which offered the two posts to the non-party experts (see background).
Besides Krstić and Radulović, another non-party expert was selected to lead the agriculture ministry, Dragan Glamočić, a professor at the Novi Sad Faculty of Agriculture.
Vučić will remain first deputy prime minister, and his party has appointed its officials and members to the other ministerial posts it was given by the new coalition agreement.
The defense minister will be Nebojša Rodić, who has so far helmed the Security and Information Agency, whereas the minister of regional development is Progressive Party MP Igor Mirović. Rodić earlier worked as the general secretary of Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić.
The cabinet reshuffle had previously been scheduled for 27 July, but it now appears to be well behind schedule.
By appointing three non-party experts to key positions in the economy, the Progressive Party confirmed announcements of its intention to take on the task of reforming the country's economy.
Austerity measures on the horizon
Such move, however, cannot be considered as significant progress, since it is not completely clear whether there will be strong political support for the reform steps envisaged, which include the shutdown of unproductive jobs in public companies and other tough austerity measures.
The non-party experts joined the government at Vučić's insistence, but there may still be some resistance within the Progressive Party to the new course.
The economic belt-tightening announced by new Finance Minister Krstić immediately upon his arrival in Serbia some 10 days ago is not a popular measure.
There are also plenty of problems in relations with the coalition partner, Prime Minister Ivica Dačić's Socialist Party.
The Socialists have a coalition agreement with the Party of United Pensioners of Serbia, whose leaders have over the past seven days reiterated on several occasions that they find unacceptable the planned budget tightening and the freezing of pensions. Prime Minister Dačić himself is conspicuously avoiding making any comments on the measures announced by the experts in his cabinet.
When all is put together, it is clear that even after the completion of all work related to the forming of the new government, which is to be done late this week, a heap of unsolved problems will remain.
It is to be expected that the non-party ministers backed by the Progressive Party and Vučić will aim to launch reforms as soon as possible. Given that the political differences with the Socialists and the Party of United Pensioners, the reorganised government may easily find itself strained by that discord as early as its first months in office.
Dačić is trying to convince his coalition partners from the Party of United Pensioners to change their position on the announced reforms, but he does not seem to be succeeding for the time being.
He is also having trouble within his own party, in which relations are in turmoil and agreement is difficult to reach. This may explain the lateness in appointing people to fill the cabinet positions to be taken by the Socialists.
The Serbian press repeatedly wrote that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French politician and former International Monetary Fund chief who resigned over a sex scandal, would get a special position as economic advisor to the government. But the rumours remained unconfirmed.