Reuters - Luksic profile
Ivona Mihajlović - administrator
* Finance minister Luksic, 34, seen as close to Djukanovic
* Widely admired economist never linked to corruption
By Petar Komnenic
PODGORICA, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Igor Luksic, who is likely to become Montenegro's prime minister, has won international praise for his economic expertise but his main task will be to advance his country's European Union membership bid.
Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic stepped down for personal reasons on Tuesday and nominated Luksic, a close ally as finance minister and the youngest member of his cabinet, as his successor.
Aged 34, Luksic has a PhD in economics and is highly regarded by Western diplomats and the local media, but opponents say he is too close to Djukanovic, who has dominated the local political scene for two decades.
Luksic led Montenegro's successful debut Eurobond issue in September and steered its economy through the financial crisis without asking for help from the International Monetary Fund.
"Igor is a brilliant economist," said one Western ambassador in Podgorica. "He has shown himself to be very capable. He belongs to a new generation of leaders."
In a statement, Luksic said the government's priority under his leadership would be to "implement the measures necessary for Montenegro to open accession talks with the European Union ... and to stay on the course of structural reforms that will improve Montenegro's healthcare, education and social welfare."
Luksic, also a senior member of Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists, has served as finance minister since 2004. He is one of the few officials in the tiny Adriatic state who local media never linked to any corruption scandals.
He made his debut in politics in the foreign ministry at the end of the turbulent 1990s -- a difficult time when Montenegro was part of Yugoslavia and under international sanctions, which gave rise to smuggling and organised crime.
Luksic's prime task will be persuade the European Union to set a date for the start of membership talks, which have been delayed amid concerns over crime and corruption, although Montenegro secured candidate status last week.
Friends and colleagues describe him as a moderate politician dedicated to his work, but opponents point to his role in the the case of Prva Banka, partly owned by Djukanovic's family.
Luksic openly confronted the central bank's then-governor, Ljubisa Krgovic, for trying to freeze the bank's assets because of its high rate of non-performing loans. The government cut short Krgovic's mandate and replaced him in October.
Luksic was also one of the most outspoken advocates of the government's decision to approve a 44 million euro bailout plan for Prva Banka from the state budget.
Unlike Djukanovic, Luksic is fluent in English, and often muses about economic topics on his blog: http://igorluksic.wordpress.com/about/
He is a member of the Montenegrin Academy of Arts and Science but also of the national basketball association.
He is married and has two daughters. (Editing by Zoran Radosavljevic and Kevin Liffey)