Support of the Serbian citizens for the EU integrations is falling, and it may be result of the loss of confidence in the real chances of accession, the recent poll by Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) shows.
The result comes after the concerns raised by the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini about the stability and peace in the Balkans, and expressions of commitment to the EU integrations of Western Balkans by the EU Foreign Affairs Council.
Share of citizens supporting EU integrations (43%) is still higher than of those opposing it (35%). While no dramatic fall was registered in the past five years, when the support mostly oscillated between 40 and 50 percent, the support level is much lower than in 2009 when it was 67%. The official Government’s poll in December 2016 put the support at 47%, after the fall in June to 41% which is unusually low in Serbia.
While it is well known that the support for the EU tends to decrease with the progress of accession process, which is long and demanding, the poll indicates that Serbian citizens might in fact be losing faith in the integrations process.
As stated by the BCSP director Sonja Stojanović Gajić on March 8, 41% think that Serbia will never become EU member, while additional 12% don’t expect membership in the next 10 years.
Ms. Stojanović Gajić outlined that the citizens are also not satisfied with the rhythm of the integrations, with only 4% thinking that the integrations process is quick, while the view of the 18% is that it stands still, and 45% that it is slow.
Serbia got candidate status for the EU membership in March 2012, the negotiations were opened in January 2014, and by now 8 chapters are opened, out of the 34 in which the progress is tracked by the European Commission. In Serbia, the cause of many delays of progress in the accession is seen as purely political, especially when it is related to the Kosovo issue or bilateral requests of EU members.
Ms. Stojanović Gajić drew attention to the high polarization in the Serbian society, with the opinion being related to political parties of choice, but also education, age, and even gender.
The voters of the ruling coalition led by the Serbian Progressive Party SNS are highly divided, with half of the supporters being in favour of the EU, while the opposition Democratic Party and Liberal Democratic Party have mostly pro-European voters, and the extreme right bloc constituted by Dveri, Serbian Radical Party and Democratic Party of Serbia are mostly anti-European.
The share of the EU enthusiasts is highest in the age range from 30 to 39, as well as older than 70 years, while younger than 30 years old are predominantly anti-European, with 39,5% against the EU and 36,6% in favour of membership.
EU stance towards Kosovo appears to have much influence on the support for the EU integrations among Serbian citizens: the poll shows that the request from Serbia to recognize the Kosovo independence, unilaterally declared in 2008, would lead to the increase of the share of those against the EU membership to 69%.
On the other hand, it doesn’t seem that the declining euro enthousiasm has to do a lot with the close ties with Russia.
While Russia is highly valued in Serbian public, almost half of the citizens think that the current level of cooperation is satisfying (48%), while 23% thinks that some sort of political alliance is needed, 15% doesn’t have attitude, and 14% is unfavourable to the ties with Russia.
It should be also noted that, in Serbian public opinion, EU is still mostly associated with positive notions, including prosperity, but also peace.
The poll was conducted between December 26 last year and January 14 2017, on the representative sample of 1,403 citizens.
Author: Smiljana Vukojičić Obradović
Photo: Media Center