BELGRADE – According to the latest poll by popular Serbian politics magazine New Serbian Political Thought, Serbs’ support for the idea of joining the European Union is continuing its downward slide, while support for an undefined ‘alliance with Russia’, or for the country’s neutrality, continues to grow.
Interviewed by Sputnik Serbia, Djordje Vukadinovic, the editor in chief of the independent magazine, revealed that “at the moment, according to our research, support for joining the European Union stands at about 47%. Among that figure, 25% is the ‘backbone’ which has always been (and will remain) in favor of the EU.”
Ultimately, he notes, “most respondents see in Europe a chance for a better future for the next generation, rather than a chance for themselves. However, undoubtedly, the number of Eurosceptics is growing.”
Interestingly, when the question is not a yes/no proposition, but an explicit choice between the EU and Russia, the answers change. Also speaking to Sputnik Serbia, Srdjan Bogosavljevic, country manager for the Ipsos Strategic Marketing market research firm, explained why this is so.
“When one asks people: ‘Are you for EU membership or for a union with Russia’, the ‘alliance with Russia’ option (whatever it means), receives 20% more support than the EU.”
“We are now finding,” Bogosavljevic explained, “that a large number of people support both the EU and Russia. But when we force them to choose between them, about 15% choose the EU, while 33% choose Russia, and 35% step out in favor of neutrality.”
In any case, Vukadinovic noted, “support for European integration has faced a slow but consistent decline. We see it drop from poll to poll, and now support is down to less than 50%.”
Noting that there has been a marked spike in Euroscepticism, the magazine editor explained that “when we talk about those who support the European Union, this is a broad but fragile group. Eurosceptics on the other hand are much more implacable – much firmer in their convictions. Of the 45% of respondents who support the EU, only about half of them can boast such firm convictions.”
“The rest are on the fence; after all, the ruling Serbian Progressive Party has evolved from a Eurosceptic to a ‘Euroreformist’ party, and voters followed their leader, who told them that it is necessary to join the EU.”
The Serbian Progressive Party emerged in 2008 as a result of a split with the Serbian Radical Party –a Eurosceptic party which at the time was the country’s leading opposition force.