The survey, which was carried out by TNS Medium Gallup between January 28 and February 2, showed that 62 per cent of Serbian citizens would vote in favour of joining the EU in a referendum, while only 20 per cent would support NATO accession.
In an interview with Tanjug news agency, Srbobran Brankovic, director of the TNS Medium Gallup, said that the number of people supporting EU accession was lower compared to last year, when 65 to 70 per cent of Serbians would have voted to join the Union.
He added, however, that the trend was not specific to Serbia, noting that in all countries that went through the European Union integration process, enthusiasm decreased as the process dragged on.
“As the countries got closer to joining the EU, skepticism increased. The cause was probably overblown expectations of dramatic increases to quality of life and living standards. In spite of the drop, in Serbia we still have overwhelming support for joining the EU,” the agency quoted Brankovic as saying.
Serbia applied for EU candidacy status last December, a few days after EU foreign ministers decided to unblock an interim trade agreement with the country. Although the European Commission welcomed the move, not every EU member state supported the application because it was done before ministers ratified Serbia’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement, SAA.
The EU foreign ministers will consider the SAA again in June, and if they consider that Belgrade is fully cooperating with the UN war crimes tribunal, known as the ICTY, they will recommend the unfreezing of the SAA. The candidacy application is to be placed on the agenda of the EU Council meeting in June.
Speaking about support for NATO membership, Brankovic said that the additional drop in popularity [four per cent less than last year] was caused by recent campaigns which “refreshed people’s memory about the (1999) bombing and revived old animosities.”
Earlier in January, a group of 200 academics, writers and journalists opposed to Serbia’s membership in NATO launched an initiative for a referendum to be held on the issue.
Reflecting on continued anger over the alliance’s actions during Serbia’s conflict with Kosovo, Matija Beckovic, a member of Serbia’s Academy of Science and Arts and one of the signatories of the petition, said that the country suffered “criminal bombing and destruction” as a result of NATO bombing in 1999.
Serbia joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in December 2006. Prior to becoming a PfP member, Serbia engaged in limited security and defence reforms in cooperation with NATO.
Serban Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac pointed out last week that Serbia would certainly cooperate with NATO, even without being a member of the alliance, but that it was up to the Serbian public to decide on the type of cooperation desired.