29 November 2011

Serbian Public and the EU

Level of support for EU membership in Serbia, October 2007 - October 2011

A survey of public opinion that was recently conducted in Serbia revealed support for EU membership in the country has finally tanked. As late as June this year the level of support stood at 60.8%, but has since dropped to 47.4%. Even so, with 37.5% opposed, supporters of membership in the EU still claim a ten point lead over those opposed. So then the Serbs, nonetheless, remain pro-EU and all is good in the world for Brussels? Well, not really.

Asked if they would support Serbia establishing the closest ties with Russia possible 59.3% answer in the affirmative, while 21.2% are opposed. That means those in favor of stronger links with Russia claim a thirty-eight point lead over those opposed. EU membership may be popular, but links with Russia are more popular still.

82% of Serbs think of Russia as a country friendly to Serbia, while 5.1% claim it is a country hostile to Serbia. 27.7% see the European Union as an entity friendly to Serbia and 42.1% see it as an entity hostile to Serbia. 20.7% see Germany as a friendly power and 55.7% as a hostile power. 11.5% see Great Britain as a friendly power and 65.9% as a hostile power. In other words, sympathy for Russia is wider than the number of those who see the benefit in close political ties with Moscow. Meanwhile support for EU membership does not imply that Serbs believe Western European powers, or even the EU, wish Serbia well.

What is more citizens of Serbia are skeptical EU membership would benefit Serbia to any great extent. 45.4% express agreement (23.2% agree strongly) with the statement that EU membership would bring Serbia more harm than gain while 43.2 percent disagree (18.6% disagree strongly). So then, what explains the situation where the people of Serbia continue to support associating with hostile states in a possibly hostile supranational entity they are no longer willing to automatically assume is tantamount to a better life? The reason is the influence of argument of appeasement.

Many in Serbia believe they have been and continue to be punished for the fact their political leadership in the 1990s did not show sufficient eagerness to join Euro-Atlantic integrations. Some of them believe that if Serbia were an EU member — and thus a nominal member of the club of western states  — it would be less likely that Americans and Western Europeans would act against it. Both because they would be less inclined to do so and because they would have less room to act in such a way.

Naturally, that one part of support for EU membership comes from people who desire it just because they believe Serbia in the EU could breathe more freely, means support for making concessions in order to join the EU is nowhere as strong as the figure of people in favor of membership could lead one to believe. 9.2% would be fine with Serbia "ceasing to support" the Serbs in the north of Kosovo if it meant getting EU candidate status in December — 75.5% want none of that.

No comments:

Post a Comment