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Albanians Feel Reserved About Serbs, Poll Shows

More than 90 per cent of Albanians have never visited Serbia, while only 13 per cent consider the relationship between the two countries good, a new survey shows.
 13.4 per cent of Albanians consider this relationship between Serbia and Albania good. Photo by BIRN

Some 45 per cent of Albanians consider the relationship with Serbia as “normal” and 54 per cent believe that ties are going to improve and that Albanian-Serbian relationships are important, a new survey says.

But only 13.4 per cent of Albanians consider this relationship good right now and 29.5 per cent assess it as bad.

The Albanian Institute for International Studies AIIS presented the poll about perceptions of Serbia in Albania using 1,200 interviews with Albanians over 18 years old.

The survey, sponsored by the German organization the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Tirana, was launched during a presentation by the Albanian-Serbian Relations Centre, a joint initiative between AIIS and the European Movement Serbia.

The survey concludes that Albanians believe that governments have better ties than societies.

Inter-government relationships are considered normal by 54.7 per cent of those interviewed, with only 18.8 per cent thinking of them as bad.

On the other hand, 42.5 per cent of people consider citizens-to-citizens relations as normal, with 27.5 per cent assessing them as bad and just 13.8 per cent as good.

Aldo Bega, a 16-year-old pupil at the “Petro Nini Luarasi” high school, told BIRN that while the governments of Albania and Serbia are struggling to build relationships, the people on both sides are still far from each other.

“As people we are not going to find peace with the Serbians as long as they consider Kosovo as Serbia,” he said.

The survey found out that 92 per cent of Albanians have never visited Serbia and 79 per cent have never read any Serbian author.

Many Albanians – 47 per cent – believe that historic hostility between the two nations is the biggest obstacle that the countries face.

Jonuz Buzo, a retired lecturer, told BIRN that rebuilding good relationships with Serbia is difficult since the hostilities are historic.

“We have had complicated relationships for ages, so things cannot change so quickly,” he said.

His friend, Mehmet Beqja sees Kosovo as the biggest obstacle between the two countries.

“Is not easy to forget what has happened to the Kosovo people. They are Albanians too so even for us it is difficult to overcome the past,” he told BIRN.

A similar poll will be held on Serbia in November in an attempt to discover Serbian perceptions of Albanians and use the data of the two countries for further reconciliation initiatives.