ISSN 2330-717X

Serbians Go Cold On Joining European Union

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By Bojana Barlovac

Support in Serbia for membership of the European Union has dropped to 53 per cent, the lowest level since 2002, according to a poll conducted by the government’s Office for EU Integration. Back in 2003, support was on a high of 72 per cent.

However, the support for reform process, which forms part of the path to the EU, remains healthy with 85 per cent of Serbians favouring the changes, not because of the EU but for the sake of better living conditions.

The survey entitled “European Orientation of Serbian citizens – Trends” was carried out from June 16-23 on a sample of 1,017 respondents aged over 18.

Ever since Serbia ousted its late strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, Serbs have supported major steps towards the EU, seeing membership as synonymous with a better life.

Fast-track moves towards membership have since then been one of the main aces that Serbia’s ruling centrist parties have fielded in election campaigns.

The pro-European coalition led by the Democratic Party leader, President Boris Tadic, won the 2008 elections mainly because the government had just signed a key Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Brussels.

Ironically, support is flagging as Serbia comes closer to obtaining the status of EU candidate. Belgrade submitted its EU candidacy application in December 2009 and completed the EU questionnare in January. Serbia expects to become a candidate by the end of the year.

Analysts blame the fall in support for EU membership, at least in part, on the government’s misuse of the EU idea for short-term promotional purposes in elections.

Nikola Jovanovic, editor of the publication “Challenges of European Integration”, says the authorities were wrong to conflate the European integration process in people’s minds with the receipt of huge grants from Brussels.

“Often they have talked about grants of billions of euros, so people imagined the EU was a giant cash dispenser from which Serbia would receive funds regardless of what it does,” Jovanovic said.

According to him, many Serbs got fed up with the idea of the EU after the lavish promises made in elections about new jobs and new money failed to translate into reality.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

One thought on “Serbians Go Cold On Joining European Union

  • Avatar
    July 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm
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    Who can blame Serbia for a coolness in their attitude, when their leaders are arrested and taken off to be tried in a foreign land? Those leaders represented the people and were executing the will of the people, and now are being punished for the people. Not many can be expected to be happy with this high-handed approach by the European Union! If the people wish to punish themselves by punishing their leaders, then it shouild be left up to them.

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