Serbian support for membership of the European Union fell below 50 percent for the third time in a year amid concern about conditions attached to its entry.
Support declined to 49 percent from 51 percent in December, according to a June 14-23 survey conducted by the Belgrade-based EU Intergration Office. About 19 percent said they would refrain from voting, up from 18 percent, and 8 percent said they were undecided compared with 3 percent in the December survey, the office said today in an e-mail. Opposition to EU entry dropped to 25 percent from 28 percent.
The EU gave Serbia candidate status on March 1 with a date for the start of entry talks dependant on progress in making peace with Kosovo, its former province that unilaterally declared independence in 2008. Serbia and Kosovo have yet to implement agreements on power supply, telecommunications and the functioning of peacekeeping forces in Kosovo, including the Serb-populated north.
Of 1,034 adult respondents, about 38 percent or three percentage points more than six months ago, see the “policy of constant conditioning and blackmail which the EU applies to our country” as the main reason to slow Serbia’s accession to the 27-member bloc.
For about 19 percent of respondents support declined for EU membership because of the “incapacity of domestic leadership” to take the country into the bloc, up from 17.5 percent in December. Sixty-one percent of respondents say Serbia needs to work out its relations with Kosovo regardless of EU membership.
Rooting out corruption tops the list of “reforms of the greatest significance” as Serbia adjusts to EU standards for 41 percent of the surveyed, while 27 percent said it was the overhaul of the judiciary system.
Prime Minister Ivica Dacic’s Cabinet, sworn in on July 27, is Serbia’s fifth government since the 2000 ouster of Slobodan Milosevic to declare EU accession as the top policy goal. Serbia’s bid to join the EU follows that of former Yugoslavia republics Slovenia, an EU member since 2004, Croatia, which aims to join the bloc in mid-2013 and Montenegro which began accession talks on June 29.
For more than a third of respondents in the semi-annual survey started in 2002, EU membership is seen as the “path” to a better future for the young, greater employment opportunities and free travel, while 22 percent see the EU as “just a dream and utopian idea.”
Fourty-six percent view entry to the EU as beneficial to Serbia, even with an increasing awareness that progress toward accession may slow as Europe tries to resolve its debt crisis.