Information News

Continuously high support for Serbia’s EU membership – 54% FOR

January 22 2020 | Belgrade

Continuously high support for Serbia’s EU membership – 54% FOR

Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović has stated that if there was a referendum tomorrow with the question: "Do you support the accession of Serbia to the European Union?", 54% of Serbian citizens would vote for, 24% would vote against, while a total of 12% would not vote at all and 10% would not know how they would respond to this question. Speaking about the results of the latest public opinion poll European Orientation of Serbian Citizens conducted by the Ministry of European Integration, the Minister has emphasised that a total of 1,050 respondents older than 18 participated in the survey that was designed according to the Standard Eurobarometer.

Joksimović has stressed that the latest data have shown the continuation of 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 the previous two years were practically identical to the answers in the latest palling wave. Joksimović has explained that the process itself is one thing, and that the final goal is the other, “the road may be difficult, demanding, not always easy and politically complicated, but the journey pays off, because of the final goal you are striving to reach and where you think you should be”. That is why the support is perhaps lower with regard to the process, but when you ask people: “Are you for full membership?” – 54% of citizens say they are absolutely for EU membership.

She has noted that, through the surveys the Ministry of European Integration conducts twice a year according to the Standard Eurobarometer, the referendum question regarding Serbia’s EU membership was answered positively by 46% and 44% of citizens in 2014, 49% and 48% in 2015, 41% and 47% in 2016, 49% and 52% in 2017, when the trend of 50+% was re-established. In 2018, 55% were recorded in both polling waves, while 53% were recorded in the first half of 2019.

“I am convinced that the majority citizens’ support to the European Integration process is the result of systemic implementation of reforms in areas significant for Serbia’s accelerated path towards EU membership, primarily regarding equal and sustainable regional development, with sound planning and a relatively high level of utilisation of EU funds”, conveyed Joksimović, adding that the benefits citizens, local communities and the state as a whole have from these projects are visible and that they considerably contribute to a better quality of everyday life.

EU membership would be beneficial for Serbia according to 48% of respondents (38% say it would be beneficial, and 10% that it would be highly beneficial). Citizens relate the notion of the EU with greater opportunities for employment and better future for youth (16% each), possibilities to travel within the EU (15%), and a better regulated society (10%).

Given that two more negotiation chapters were opened in the previous year and that EU-funded projects are successfully being implemented, it is clear that this gives citizens ground to continuously have a positive opinion on Serbia’s European integration. Joksimović has emphasised that, taking into account all elements of the enlargement policy, both positive ones and the ones on which we can influence through our work, as well as the overall wide political context, it is important that citizens’ expectations are realistic and directed towards the benefits they can have from this process even before the EU membership itself.

With regard to the Ministry’s multiannual surveys, it is clear that perhaps the most stable positive piece of data is the one referring to the citizens’ rational approach to the topic of European integration. As much as 73 percent of respondents support reforms that lead to EU membership, and agree that they should be conducted even if the EU did not set them as a condition. In the previous years, since June 2014, the number has varied from 65 to 75 percent, which means that the public has a realistic attitude that reforms in Serbia are necessary also for the better functioning of certain sector policies, and for the ultimate goal – Serbia’s EU membership. “Citizens believe that the reforms are important for the well-being of citizens and for creating a better and more regulated Serbia, as well as that they are an instrument for obtaining EU membership”, noted Joksimović.

Respondents believe that the fight against corruption (19%) is the most important reform, i.e. the one that has the most positive effect on their everyday lives. Healthcare system reform is at the second place with 17%, while better protection of human rights and judiciary reform are at the third with 13%, according to the results of the Ministry’s survey.

As regards EU pre-accession funds, Joksimović has recalled that Serbia is the leader in the region according to the level of utilisation of funds at its disposal, i.e. around EUR 200 million annually. She has particularly stressed that proposed priorities for financing from IPA funds in 2019 and 2020 included projects that contribute to further progress in strengthening competitiveness of the economy, rule of law, environmental protection, fight against climate change, reduction of unemployment and overall social development.

That these funds are effectively and timely used, speaks the fact that, with regard to grant development assistance Serbia has received since 2000, 26% of respondents recognise that the EU is the largest donor to Serbia. According to the citizens’ perception, Russia holds the second place, while China is in the third, and Japan in the fourth place, with 23%, 20% and 8%, respectively. Almost every third citizen of Serbia knows about at least one EU-funded project (31%), most frequently about projects in the area of environmental protection (15%), education (14%) and healthcare (12%).

Official data show that in the period 2000–2016, the European Union and its Member States were the largest donors with EUR 4.31 billion in realised grants, by which they significantly contributed to Serbia’s development. Individually, the European Commission donated EUR 2.96 billion, Germany EUR 368.21 million, Sweden EUR 232.11 million and Italy EUR 187.72 million.

This time as well, the largest percent of citizens – 62% – believe that the relations between Belgrade and Pristina should be resolved regardless of the EU’s expectations and the European integration process.

Source: Tanjug