Ex-defence minister Milos Vucevic to lead Serbia’s next government

Ex-defence minister Milos Vucevic to lead Serbia’s next government
Milos Vucevic is president of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), as well as a former deputy prime minister and minister of defence. / SNS
By bne IntelliNews March 31, 2024

Milos Vucevic, president of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), has been tapped by President Aleksandar Vucic to lead the formation of Serbia's new government, Vucic announced on March 30.

Vucevic, a lawyer by profession, is expected to pick his cabinet in the coming weeks. His government will take office at a time of heightened tensions with Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and will also have the challenge of maintaining Serbia's relations with Russia and China while pursuing its goal of European Union membership.

“I propose to the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Milos Vucevic as a candidate for the prime minister of the Republic of Serbia,” Vucic wrote on Instagram. 

He added that Vucevic had “performed the responsible and demanding functions of deputy prime minister and minister of defence, thus demonstrating that he has the dedication and expertise required to perform the duties of prime minister.”

Vucevic's nomination follows months of speculation since the SNS secured victory in the December 17 national election, a vote marred by accusations of fraud and followed by mass protests. 

The SNS holds 113 seats in the 250-seat parliament, but has allies in the assembly including the Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) and the List Of Vojvodina Hungarians, with 13 and six seats respectively.

The deadline for the formation of the new government is May 6, 90 days after the assembly's constitution. Failure to form a government within this timeframe could lead to the dissolution of the National Assembly.

Vucevic took over the helm of the SNS in 2023, after Vucic stepped down from the party’s leadership, though Vucic is understood to remain its unofficial leader. 

He will replace Ana Brnabic as prime minister. Brnabic is the longest-serving prime minister since 2000, having held the post since 2017. She has moved to become speaker of the Serbian parliament. In a post on social network X, Brnabic wished Vucevic “good luck and brave new victories!” 

The new prime minister will face numerous challenges both domestically and on the international scene. 

Serbia’s December 2023 general and municipal elections triggered mass protests, as opposition figures claimed fraud especially in the Belgrade municipal election, which is now being re-run. 

While Serbia’s economy has shown robust growth, Belgrade is seeking to boost investment further. There have been hints that the new government may seek to revive Rio Tinto’s massive Jadar lithium project, which was stalled when the government revoked licences back in 2021. The project had previously been the subject of mass protests, and remains a politically sensitive issue. 

Internationally, Serbia remains under pressure from the EU, which it aspires to join, to align with the bloc’s foreign policy and impose sanctions on Russia over its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. 

Serbia has refused to join sanctions, and has continued to try to balance its relations with the West with friendly ties with both Russia and China. 

In a controversial move, Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic recently visited Moscow and held talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. 

Meanwhile, a recent recommendation that Kosovo be allowed to join the Council of Europe was a blow to Belgrade, which has long lobbied to keep Kosovo out of international organisations. Despite this, Kosovo's candidacy for CoE membership was accepted last year, and a decision on whether to admit Kosovo is due to be made in May. 

This came after tensions between Belgrade and Pristina were further raised by the Kosovan central bank’s decision to declare the euro the sole currency for transactions in Kosovo. Until now, the Serbian dinar has been widely used in majority-Serb parts of northern Kosovo.