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    • The majority of Serbian citizens in favour of EU membership, cooperation with Russia and want better defined Serbia’s policy of neutrality

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    • Date: 08 March 2017

      Results of the Belgrade Center for Security Policy survey showed that Serbia is deeply polarized society and the need for defining of the policy of neutrality, as well as the comprehensive public debate on National Security Strategy, highlighted the conference held on 8th March 2017 in Belgrade.

      At the conference was presented BCBP's study „Public perception of Serbia’s foreign policy“, which shows that the majority of 1.400 respondents are in favour of EU membership, are against membership in NATO and are satisfied with he existing level of cooperation with Russia.

      "Political orientation is the dominant factor. In all matters, the supporters of SRS, DSS and Dveri were pro-Russian, opposed to NATO and were more critical towards EU. The supporters of LDP and DS are most consistently for EU and NATO, while the supporters of SNS and SPS are divided on many questions", stressed Sonja Stojanovic Gajic, director of BCBP.

      The divisions are most noticable in analysis of attitudes towards the policy of neutrality, even though the majority is still in favour of some kind of miliary neutrality, she highlighted. The largest group of respondents conidered that policy of neutrality should be retained, but that this policy should specificy what it entails, while the fifth of respondents is satisfied with the current form of military neutrality, said StojanovicGajic.

      There is slightly higher number of those who are supporting Serbia's engagement in addressing security issues beyond national borders than those who are against, but almost half of respondents do not know in which parts of the world Serbia should be engaged. In this regard, costs of peacekeeping operations are the most significant item for 35% of respondents, results of survey showed.

      "It is neccessary to open a dialogue on National Security Strategy and to include representatives of all political parties, civil society, expert community and concerned citizens. Options for policy of neutrality should be examined as well as its compatibility with EU integration. Citizens sholud be informed on costs and benefits of engagements in foreign countries", the director of BCBP underlined.

      Wanting EU membership, satisfied with Russia, opposed to NATO

      Nearly half of the citizens considered the current level of political cooperation with Russia satisfying, one-third desired Serbia’s integration into a Russia-led Eurasian Union, one-fifth is against this, and the majority has no opinion on the issue, stated Stojanović Gajić. The majority has no opinion on the Crimea issue and believes that Serbia should remain neutral regarding the Ukraine conflic, she stressed.

      More than half of respondents believed that Serbia will never become a NATO member. If the referendum was held, 64% would vote against and only 9% for NATO integration, which is the minimal support in the last ten years, stated Stojanovic Gajic.

      "It is important to say that the decline in support of NATO membership isn't causing the rise of the opposite attitudes. It shows us that the part of suppoters of NATO membership became undecided, not opposed to the issue", pointed up the director of BCBP.

      The main novelty is the decline in support of EU membership, even though there is still more citizens in favour with that measure. If recognition of Kosovo was a requirement for accession process, only 13% of citizens would support that decision.

      "Of particular concern is the fact that there is more opponents than supporters of EU accesion among the youth. Half of citizens would not mind if the EU ceased to exist. Around two-fifths believe that Serbia will never become EU member, one-fifth considers that Serbia will become EU member in five to ten years, while 12% of citizens think that we will need a whole decade for that process", Stojanovic Gajic said.

      Germany and the EU most successful democracies

      The majority of respondents regarded influence of Germany, China and Russia as positive, and influence of EU and USA as mostly negative, BCBP's researcher Milos Popovic pointed out. The majority views USA as an economic, military and technological power, Russia is percieved as a political and military power, while Germany  is the best  in aspect of investors' credibility and, accompanied with the EU, is seen as the most successful in domain of democracy, human rights and rule of law. Citizens believe that China is a leader in new technologies and a successful economic power.

      "Military power is the Russian soft power and citizens believe that alliance with Russia would positively affect security of Serbia. According to citizens, EU membership would be good for attracting foreign investment, employment and image in the world", stressed Popovic.

      Analysis on media reporting on EU, Russia and USA made by CRTA (Center for research, transparency and responsability) was presented at the conference as well. Media has a great influence on citizens' attitudes, concluded Tamara Skrozza, a journalist in Vreme and editor of the research.

      "Athough neutral content is most represented, which cites multiple sources (30% on average), domination of pro-Russian ideas is evident, which are more numerous than pro-American and pro-EU combined. Official Serbian policy is pro-European - therefore, one would expect that at least  media which are consedered to be pro-government would have pro-European orientation. In this regard, we have a quite bizarre case - media which support government of Serbia actually promote pro-Russian content to the greatest extent", Skrozza pointed.

       

      The conference is a part of the project entitled "Renewed and revised co-operation between the BCSP, regional partners and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs", funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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