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More than a half of citizens still in favour of EU membership

August 23 2019 | Belgrade

More than a half of citizens still in favour of EU membership

If there was a referendum tomorrow with the question: "Do you support the accession of Serbia to the European Union?", 53% of Serbian citizens would vote for, 25% would vote against, while a total of 10% would not vote at all and 12% would not know how they would respond to this question – this is the result of the public opinion poll European Orientation of Serbian Citizens conducted by the Ministry of European Integration. A total of 1,050 respondents older than 18 participated in the survey that was designed according to the Standard Eurobarometer.

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has stated that this survey as well has shown citizens’ stable support to European integration, since the answers to the question “Would you support Serbia’s accession to the EU at the referendum?” from June and December 2018 (55%) were practically identical to the answers in the latest palling wave. She has assessed that citizens’ stable and majority support to the European integration process and Serbia’s path towards EU membership are the result of the promotion of and systemic work on reforms, regional development policy and sustainable development policy, as well as of sound planning and preparation for the use of EU funds, cross-border cooperation etc.

As in the previous years, citizens’ support to reforms is very high. Out of the total number of respondents, 68% of them believe that the reforms necessary for Serbia’s accession to the EU should be carried out regardless of this condition, for the benefit of the citizens and for the purpose of creating a better and more regulated Serbia. Respondents see the fight against corruption (20%) as the most important reform that has the most positive impact on their everyday life. Healthcare system reform with 16% and better protection of human rights with 13% are next on the list of important reforms, according to the results of this survey.

As regards development grants provided to Serbia since 2000, 23% of the respondents recognise that the EU has been the largest donor to Serbia since 2000, while 22% of the respondents believe that it is China, which puts it in the second place; Russia is in the third place with 20% and Japan in the fourth with 9%. Every third citizen has heard of a project financed from EU funds, most frequently in the area of environment (17%) and healthcare (13%). Official data show that from 2000 to the end of 2016, the European Union and its Member States were the largest donors with EUR 4.31 billion in realised grants, by which it significantly contributed to Serbia’s development – individually perceived, the European Commission donated EUR 2.96 billion, Germany EUR 368.21 million, Sweden EUR 232.11 million and Italy EUR 187.72 million.

Minister Joksimović has recalled that, since it began using IPA funds in 2007, Serbia has been the leader in the region according to the use of these funds that are mostly in the form of grants, which is quite commendable, but also represents a great obligation for Serbia – to continue being successful, so that citizens’ everyday life would improve.

Speaking about IPA 2018, the Minister has said that the funds have already been programmed and amount to EUR 179.1 million in grants. They will support the implementation of reforms, particularly in the area of the rule of law, the improvement of projects in the area of environmental protection, tourist infrastructure, sustainable development through innovation, employment of less employable groups and housing of vulnerable groups. Joksimović has added that it is important to use the pre-accession funds efficiently and effectively, so that Serbia, when it becomes an EU member, would know how to properly use cohesion funds that are much larger.

The largest percentage of citizens – 59% – believe that the issues between Belgrade and Pristina should be addressed regardless of whether the EU demands it, i.e. more than a half of the respondents support the commitment of the Government of the Republic of Serbia to continue the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and its readiness to reach sustainable solutions in this way.

For 51% of respondents, EU membership would be useful for Serbia (43% said it would be useful and another 8% said it would be very useful). For example, citizens relate the notion of the EU with greater opportunities for employment and travel, better future for youth, better regulated society, better life and higher living standards in Serbia.