Serbian support for joining the European Union fell to the lowest level in a decade as the 27-nation bloc pressures the Balkan nation to mend ties with the breakaway province of Kosovo.
In a referendum on EU membership, 41 percent said they would vote in favor, compared with 49 percent six months ago, according to a poll presented by Serbia’s Office for European Integrations in Belgrade today. Thirty-one percent would vote against entry, up from 25 percent in the previous survey, while the percentage of undecided and those not planning to vote remained at 8 percent and 19 percent respectively, according to the poll conducted Dec. 14-21 among 1,006 adult citizens.
The government seeks to start EU entry talks after securing candidate status for Serbia last March. Improving relations with Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence in 2008, is seen by 47 percent of respondents as the biggest obstacle for Serbia’s further progress toward EU membership.
Prime Minister Ivica Dacic’s Cabinet, in office since July, is Serbia’s fifth government since the 2000 ouster of Slobodan Milosevic to declare EU accession as its top policy goal. Its former Yugoslav federation partner, Slovenia, joined the EU in 2004 and Croatia is set to become a member this year.
Serbia has engaged in EU-mediated talks with Kosovo so it can start entry negotiations with the bloc. A key condition is to reduce Serbia’s influence in northern Kosovo with the largest Serbian community, which does not recognize Kosovo’s mostly ethnic Albanian government.
Several thousand Serbs held a protest rally yesterday in the northern Kosovar town of Mitrovica demanding that the government in Belgrade not give in to EU demands.