Experts: Support to Serbia’s EU membership falling due to negative media reports

NEWS 30.04.2022 14:11
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EU, Evropska unija
Source: N1

The drop in the number of citizens who support Serbia's European Union membershipis not a surprise, considering the fact that the media report on the EU in a negative context, said Katarina Tadic from the European Fund for the Balkans. Milorad Bjeletic, executive director of the Belgrade Open School, emphasised that the fact that less than 40 percent of citizens are in favor of Serbia's entry into the EU is "dramatic", but that it does not say much, because citizens generally do not understand what the process brings along.

For the first time in the last 20 years, the number of citizens who oppose Serbia’s accession to the European Union is higher than those who support it, according to a survey carried out by Ipsos agency.

According to Ipsos, only 35% of citizens would vote for joining the Union in the referendum, while 44% would oppose it. While in Brussels such results are read as insufficient work of officials on the promotion of European values, in Belgrade they estimate that such statistics are a consequence of great EU pressure on Serbia, especially when it comes to the war in Ukraine.

„Serbia has traditionally had about 50 percent support for joining the EU in the last ten years, and that is not a surprise. It is interesting to me to see how citizens understand this issue. Some other research shows that more than 40 percent of citizens in Serbia believe that we will never enter the EU, or we will enter in 20 years,” Tadic told N1, adding that it would be interesting to see the whole research done by Ipsos, because now we have the answers to only one question.

As she said, it is necessary to look at the whole set of questions and see if it is really the response of citizens to joining the EU or it is the result of some other external factors that influence their opinion.

Tadic sees the responsibility for the decline in support for European integration mostly in the authorities and the media.

“The biggest responsibility lies with the media and government representatives. We need to communicate with the citizens. However, there is research that the EU is portrayed in the media in a very negative light. And maybe that is the answer to the question why the trust suddenly falls. Over the past two months, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, we see that the EU is portrayed mainly as an actor that puts a lot of pressure on Serbia, in terms of adjusting foreign policy and imposing sanctions," she said.

Bjeletic recalled that Serbia signed the Association and Stabilization Agreement (SAA) with the EU in 2013.

"Serbia is not starting the process now, we are already an associate member of the EU, we have the SAA signed on September 1, 2013. We have been fighting for that agreement for six years. We have status in the EU, we are an associate member. Everyone is asking why the EU expects us to harmonise our laws with it. Our status should only change from associate to full membership, and that is the negotiation process," Bjeletic told N1.

He said that the citizens "are not aware that our economic development from 2006 to 2022 is precisely a consequence of that SAA.”

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