Branislav Nedimović, Minister of Agriculture, says that Ana Brnabić as PM is the best solution at the moment, and that the key issues that the new government will address are Kosovo and the coronavirus. In the interview he gave to Kurir, Nedimović stated that he had always been in favour of the division of responsibility, with both electoral list partners and the associates in the government/administration, but that it was a fact that the Progressives had at one time been generous with their coalition partners.
How do you comment on the claims that only yourself and Siniša Mali are safe bets when it comes to the new government?
I have come across all sorts of things in the media and at the bookmakers before. It’s the same now. There is only Prime Minister-designate, who will nominate government members. This person alone knows who is a safe bet. Everything else in the past six months is no more than speculation.
When you were appointed the electoral list leader in the parliamentary election, did you expect to be offered the post of PM?
Absolutely not. I’ve been in politics for too long – 20 years – to think that way. PM-designate and leader of the electoral list are two different things. The list has to do with the legislative branch, and the government is the executive branch. They ought to be kept separate.
Were you pushed to the front and appointed as the list leader because you are one of the few ministers who has not been associated with any affairs?
You said that, I have no comment. The Party Presidency took a unanimous decision on that, and the entire list was set at the same time, from the first to the 250th position.
Do you think that Brnabić as PM is the best solution?
I raise both my hands to support her. I worked with Ana when we were ministers and when she was PM. I also worked with her even before we entered the government – as part of NALED. I think I have known her the longest of all the ministers, it has to be no less than ten to twelve years. I know how she works, and she as PM is the best solution at the moment.
What was the snag that prevented you from forming a government for two months? You won 60 percent of the vote in the election.
The constitutional deadline for forming the government is clear. A government is formed, and coalition partners and ministers selected, in line with the circumstances that the country is in. The circumstances are changing, we have challenges ahead of us with respect to both Kosovo and the coronavirus. There is no doubt that these two things will mark the beginning of the new government’s activities.
The President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić has said that some Progressives act as if they have taken out a lease on their posts. Do you have the same impression?
Everyone relates to the work that they do in a personal way. I can only speak for myself here – I would be honoured to be a minister, as well as to be the minister of agriculture with the longest track record in the past 30 or 40 years. On the other hand, I can also get no post at all, but I will work for the party all the same.
Does that mean that some Progressive Party officials insisted on ministerial posts? Who are they?
I don’t know. You have to ask the person who said that.
How do you comment on the estimates that this government has a set operational life, and that a snap parliamentary election will be held alongside the presidential one in about a year and a half?
I can say the same thing that I said about PM-designate and the government – the fact that something is reported in the media doesn’t at all mean that that’s how things will turn out. The political moment ahead of us will provide us with an answer.
In your opinion, which government would work best in the interests of the Serbian people – the Progressives and the minorities, the Progressives and the Socialists, the Progressives and the SPA, or all together?
I presented my view at the meeting of the Presidency. The media is not the place where I should make statements regarding such matters. When this topic is discussed again, I will make my view known. There is no doubt that in the decades ahead many will have to put in quite an effort to even come close to the result that the Progressives have had, let alone equal it.
Is the Serbian Progressive Party overly generous with their coalition partners?
It is very important to share the responsibility with the coalition partners on your electoral list, as well as with the ones you are negotiating with regarding the new government. There have been those who got more than they deserved, and then turned into Doubting Thomas’s. But, it’s a point of honour for everyone. The Progressive Party has given it its best to get this result, and whether everyone else has also given it their all is a question you should ask them. When I say this, I mean everyone and the parties on the list (of the Progressives). They know how much they have worked for this list.
Ministers Mihajlović and Joksimović are not happy with the developments regarding the forming of the new government. Mihajlović expected the post of PM. Are her ambitions well-founded?
It’s you who is saying that she had such expectations, I have never heard it said anywhere.
Do you have greater ambitions? Are you secretly hoping for a different cabinet post?
Absolutely not. I’m just your ordinary guy from Sremska Mitrovica, and what I got is already a lot.
You think that this is how far you can go?
If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be what I am now… Well, I wouldn’t have guessed it in my wildest political dreams. This is much more than I thought I could ever be. To be the minister of agriculture in a country of farmers is a great honour.
How do you comment on the possibility of having people who have not passed the election threshold, e.g. Gordana Čomić, Tatjana Macura, Čedomir Jovanović, in the government?
I don’t wish to comment on the individuals, but I’m in favour of having as many actors and different opinions as possible.
ON CABINET COLLEAGUES
‘I’m closest to Knežević, Šarčević, and Lončar.’
Which ministers do you work with the best?
With Goran Knežević, as I have known him for a long time. The first time I saw Šarčević was when we took up our ministerial posts, but we work well together. I also work really well with Minister of Health Zlatibor Lončar. Generally speaking, I try to get on well with all my colleagues.
ON LADIES IN POLITICS
‘I always raise my hand in support of having more women in positions of power.’
There have been announcements that women will make up 50 percent of the new government.
When I was mayor of Sremska Mitrovica, women made up over 50 percent of the administration. I always raise my hand in support of more women in management positions.
ON THE ARREST OF AN ASSOCIATE
‘Everyone should be accountable for what they do, there should be no tolerance.’
An associate of yours was arrested for taking a bribe.
We have been fighting against corruption for the past three years, in our ranks as well as in border inspection teams attempting to commit acts of misconduct. Especially prominent was the action of intercepting the re-exportation of apples to Russia. Similarly, we had an instance when the head of the Directorate for Agrarian Payments was arrested. Regarding Darija Janjić Nišavić specifically, if someone has committed an unlawful act, they need to be held accountable for that. Zero tolerance of corruption.
Kurir.rs/ Katarina Blagović Photo: Marina Lopičić