By Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) - A Serbia ex-defense minister who was dismissed after insulting a female journalist with a sexist remark will become the new head of the state security agency, the prime minister said Monday.

Aleksandar Vucic said that former Defense Minister Bratislav Gasic “has the skills and will perform his duties according to the law.”

Gasic sparked outrage in December 2015 after a journalist knelt down in front of him to avoid being in the way of cameras as he spoke to a group of reporters during a visit to a factory. He commented: “I like these female journalists who kneel down so easily.”

Vucic, who steps down as prime minister on May 31 to become Serbia’s new president, had reluctantly agreed to fire Gasic, one of his closest associates, after a series of protests organized by Serbia’s journalist unions. Gasic said at the time that he was sacked under Western pressure because of his pro-Russia stance.

“Bratislav Gasic was banished from the public scene for a year and a half,” Vucic said. “I think he paid a very, very high price for a serious incident.”

The reinstatement triggered outrage from the opposition.

“Bratislav Gasic is unworthy of any public position and with him and the helm of BIA (security agency) we can expect … complete politicizing of this civilian agency which will be completely loyal to Aleksandar Vucic and his party,” said Dragan Sutanovac, a former defense minister and head of the opposition Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, outgoing President Tomislav Nikolic, a staunch pro-Russian, has been named by the government as head of the National Council on cooperation with Russia and China which will work on “deepening” ties with the two world powers.

Although Vucic has proclaimed Serbia’s membership in the European Union its “strategic goal,” the Balkan country has been sliding toward Moscow and Beijing both militarily and economically.

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