Europe

Serbia profile - Leaders

  • 27 April 2016
  • From the section Europe
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Nikolic's Progressive Party has evolved from its nationalist roots to become more pro-EU

President: Tomislav Nikolic

Pro-EU nationalist Tomislav Nikolic beat the liberal Democratic Party incumbent Boris Tadic in the second round of the presidential election of 2012, confounding expectations.

Mr Nikolic founded the Progressive Party in 2008 as a break-away from the hard-line nationalist and anti-Nato Radical Party, in order to move closer to the centre ground, adopt a pro-EU course and distance nationalists from associations with the Milosevic era of war crimes and xenophobia.

The new party campaigned against unemployment, inflation and corruption to become the largest party at parliamentary elections in May 2012, building on this to achieve Mr Nikolic's win in the presidential vote a few weeks later.

Mr Nikolic backed up his stated commitment to European integration by signing a landmark agreement on normalising ties between Serbia and the disputed province of Kosovo. This removed one of the major obstacles in the way of progress towards EU membership.

Formal EU accession talks began in January 2014. Soon after, Mr Nikolic called a snap parliamentary election on 16 March, after his governing Progressive Party said it needed a new mandate to push through the tough economic reforms required by the EU as a condition of membership.

Born in 1952, Mr Nikolic trained as a building engineer before going into politics as a Radical. He rose to be deputy prime minister of Serbia and Yugoslavia under the nationalist rule of Slobodan Milosevic, and later stood in for far-right Radical leader Vojislav Seselj while the latter faced war crimes charges in the Hague.

He broke with Mr Seselj after deciding that European integration and economic issues should prevail over nationalist concerns.

Prime minister: Aleksandar Vucic

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Like President Nikolic, Mr Vucic is a nationalist who adopted a pro-EU course

Aleksandar Vucic became prime minister after his pro-EU nationalist Progressive Party won a landslide victory in early parliamentary elections in March 2014.

On coming to power, Mr Vucic pledged a radical overhaul of Serbia's ailing economy and an accelerated drive towards EU membership.

The reforms would include squeezing the public sector, reforming the budget, privatising state-owned companies and expanding the private sector.

The new prime minister won popularity by promising to combat endemic corruption and widespread hardship.

Mr Vucic re-formed the existing coalition with the Socialist Party of outgoing Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, who switched to the post of deputy prime minister in the new government.

The Socialists and the Progressives had been in a coalition led by Mr Dacic since the previous election in 2012.

Mr Vucic called fresh early elections in April 2016, in a bid to obtain a renewed mandate to push through the reforms required for EU membership.

This time the Progressive Party secured a reduced but still comfortable majority.

Born in 1970, Mr Vucic joined Vojislav Seselj's Radical Party in 1993. From 1998-2000, he served as minister of information in a government that loyally backed hard-line nationalist President Milosevic.

Along with current President Nikolic, he was one of those who in 2008 left the Radicals to found the more moderate Progressive Party.