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news 08 Mar 17

Serbs Doubt Prospect of EU Membership, Survey Shows

Most people in Serbia want to join the EU - but do not expect membership - while cherishing a respectful attitude to Russia, a survey by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy shows.

Maja Zivanovic

People in Novi Sad. Photo: Beta/Dragan Gojic

A new survey presented on Wednesday in Belgrade, on public attitudes to national security, foreign policy, challenges, threats and potential alliances, says most people still want to join the EU - but don't want to join NATO.

The timeframe of the survey was from 26 December to January 14, using a sample of 1,403 citizens.

“The major findings are that the majority in Serbia is still in favour of EU membership, is against NATO membership, and is satisfied with the existing level of cooperation with Russia.

"But the perception of EU has recently deteriorated; it remains an authority only in the domain of democracy and rule of law, and membership is expected to further economic benefits and international standing,” the report said.

Serbia became a candidate for EU membership in 2012 and has opened eight chapters so far.

The survey of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy showed that most people have a favourable view of their country's close ties to Russia.

“On the perception of major powers, the majority in Serbia see Russia as a political and military power,” the report notes.

Russia and Serbia historically have warm relations based on Slavic ethnic ties and common membership of the Orthodox Church, and politicians in the two countries have for years fostered close and friendly relations.

The survey showed that Serbs see the EU and Germany as successful in democracy, human rights, and rule of law. China is also seen as a successful economic and political power.

“The influence of Germany, China and Russia is regarded as positive, while the influence of the EU and the US is seen as mostly negative,” the report noted, adding, however, that people believe EU membership would attract foreign investment and increase employment, while the alliance with Russia enhances security.

Regarding Russia, the majority is satisfied with the current level of cooperation with Russia. But one-third would like to see Serbia’s integration into the Russian-led Eurasian Union, one-fifth are against and the majority has no opinion.

When it comes to NATO, the majority oppose and do not expect Serbia's membership. Less than one in ten favour NATO membership, although one-third are in favour of cooperation through the Partnership for Peace program, PfP.

Most Serbs favour EU membership - but if recognition of Kosovo were a requirement, the majority would abandon EU accession.

The survey warned that the length of accession has affected the public perception and the majority of respondents to the survey do not believe Serbia will ever become an EU member.

There are more positive than negative associations with the EU, however, especially regarding peace, democracy, human rights and economic benefits.

The majority of citizens support the current policy of military neutrality but demand better specification of the policy of neutrality.

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