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New Serbian government gets parliament approval

Serbian Prime Minister and leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) Aleksandar Vucic gestures during a rally ahead of Sunday's election, in Belgrade April 21, 2016. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s new cabinet was endorsed by parliament on Thursday on a platform of stepping up reforms and completing EU accession talks in 2019.

Vucic, a centre-right leader and former ultra-nationalist who has been in power since 2014, won a comfortable majority in an April election but delayed forming a new cabinet while seeking a coalition to share responsibility for reforms.

He eventually renewed his coalition with the Socialists and retained largely the same team, including Finance Minister Dusan Vujovic, a former World Bank economist whose confirmation in the job signals a continuity in economic policy.

The government received the support of 163 lawmakers, while 62 voted against in the 250-seat parliament. New ministers will be sworn in later in the evening.

Vucic told parliament on Tuesday that exports and investment would both rise, leading to an overall 13 percent growth of the economy by the end of his new four-year term. The Balkan country’s debt will shrink to 60 percent of national output by 2020 from the current 72 percent, he said.

Serbia, the biggest market in the western Balkan region, is forecast to grow 2.5 percent in 2016, which places it among the most sluggish economies in the area.

In the otherwise largely unchanged government, Vucic appointed the country’s first openly gay minister. Ana Brnabic, ex-manager of Serbia’s subsidiary of an international wind park developer, was named minister for state administration.

Serbia’s Gay Straight Alliance called her appointment in the conservative Balkan country a historic decision.

Reporting by Ingrid Melander and Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Robin Pomeroy