Do Serbs really want to join the EU?

An interesting poll came out of Gallup yesterday:
Despite Kosovo Intervention, Serbians Favor EU Membership

On May 15, the Serbian parliament approved a new coalition government led by Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and President Boris Tadic, both moderates who would like to see their country join the European Union within the next decade. “Serbia’s aspiration to become a full member of the EU is a clearly declared commitment of every party in this coalition,” Kostunica told the parliament prior to confirmation.
However, Serbia’s refusal to compromise on any plan for the future of Kosovo that grants independence to the breakaway province is a stumbling block on the road to EU membership. Kosovo has been administered by the UN since 1999, when NATO ousted Serbian forces that had killed 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians in the region.
What does the Serbian public think about the EU? Despite that the EU has brokered the Ahtisaari Plan that would grant Kosovo a form of “supervised independence,” 63% of Serbians living in Serbia say they have a “very positive” (24%) or “somewhat positive” (39%) opinion of the role the EU is playing in the Balkan region. A similar number, 62%, say they think Serbian membership in the EU would be a good thing. Just 9% feel it would be a bad thing.

Sure, the brunt of anger is directed at the USA, Warren Christopher, Madelaine Albright and Wes Clark (and at the domestic war criminals as well, including Milosevic, who should have offered his hospitality to the aforementioned trio in his cell in The Hague), not the Europeans which are natural neighbors, allies, friends and business partners. America is a far-away continent somewhere at the edge of the world map and can be safely ignored, but Europe is where the country is, so one better play nice with the EU.
Also, many see the 1990s as a temporary interruption in the road to EU membership. Back in the late 1980s, when Belgrade almost got to host the ’92 Olympics (lost to Barcelona in the last voting round), Yugoslavia was first in line to join the union. Many there see the renewed effort as a continuation of that process. After all, if they are now all lovey-dovey with the other ex-Yugoslav republics (of which Slovenia is already now an EU member) after they went to war against them, why treat EU as an enemy?

There is less consensus on whether the Serbian government is doing everything necessary to join the EU. Just under half (48%) of Serbians feel it is, while 37% say it isn’t. One possible factor in these perceptions is the ongoing failure of the Serbian government to locate and arrest war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic. In May 2006, the EU suspended talks on the first steps toward membership, declaring that negotiations would not resume until Mladic was in custody.

No surprise, after a strange and prolonged election earlier this year. Everyone is looking askance at the leadership.

Results are based on face-to-face interviews conducted during February 2007 with randomly selected samples of 1,566 Serbians aged 15 and older. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

This is troubling – face-to-face? This means that most of the people interviewed were in big cities: Belgrade and perhaps (hopefully!) a few other big cities like Nis, Novi Sad or Kragujevac. I doubt that the Gallup people trekked into the mountains to interview people in tiny villages.
The entire 1990s wars of the Balkans were wars between city and country, between an urban, modern, democratic, liberal, pro-European mindset held by people who are educated, speak foreign languages and travel abroad, and the rural, illiterate, backwards, conservative, patriarchal, nationalistic, religious-fundamentalist mindset held by people living in small places. Sorta like the Red/Blue divide in the USA. It was the local conservatives of various ethnicities who joined the paramilitary groups and faught each other, while the local liberals remained in the cities or fled the country. Bombings of Vukovar, Sarajevo and Dubrovnik were bombings of cultural and social elites (of many ethnicities living together) by the drunk peasants from one ethnic side or another. Bombing of Belgrade by NATO was exactly the same thing.
Kosovo is historically the cradle of Serbia. A millenium ago Serbia was Kosovo – it is only the later wars and realignments that gave Serbia additional territory to the north, including Belgrade. All the churches, monasteries and monuments that define Serbian statehood are located in Kosovo. The emotional atachment is completely understandable.
Imagine if Virginia decided to secede from the USA and the entire rest of the world threatened military – including nuclear – intervention (on top of cessation of all trade) in case the US government interfered with the secession? Can you imagine the emotions this would elicit?
A century ago, Kosovo was inhabited by Serbs and Albanians in about a 9:1 ratio. Differences in birthrates, slow emigration of Serbs over decades for economic reasons (Kosovo is the poorest region of the former Yugoslavia), and the ethnic cleansing of Serbs at the hands of KLA in the 1980s (that was the first use of the term in history – Milosevic rose to power by promising to stop it and protect the local Serbian population) completely reversed that ratio to 1:9. Finally, in 1999, almost all of the rest of the Serbs fled Clark’s bombs and depleted uranium, leaving only tiny scatterings of Serbs still living in the province.
So, what is one to do? The rural folks, who have nothing personal to be proud of, who suffered group-related humiliation for a decade (demonization of Serbs by the western media, loss of territory, getting cleansed out of Croatia and Bosnia, finally getting bombed, while Milosevic gave up on everything one thing at a time) have only one thing to cling to – Kosovo. Defending it to the bitter end. It is a matter of ego.
But the urban folks – those who were likely the majority of interviewees in this poll – are pragmatic. They can afford to, because they have individual, personal strengths to keep their self-esteem. They are educated, perhaps successful in business, politics or academia. They are capable of losing Kosovo without losing their identities (and without losing their minds). They see Kosovo as a thing of the past and EU as the future, and future is more important.
So, I’d like to see a poll that carefully differentiates between urban and rural folks (party affiliation may be a better indicator than actual physical address, as many of the rural folks are now refugees in big cities) before I agree that the Serbian population as a whole is so enthusiastic about joining the EU.

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30 responses to “Do Serbs really want to join the EU?

  1. Aureola Nominee, FCD

    Very interesting analysis. If I may pick a nit: it was depleted uranium, not enriched uranium.

  2. The cheapest analysis of all. And the writer calls himself a liberal democrat!!! Snake in the grass!!!
    This is absolute bullshit story. All is serbian fabrication. If you serbs dont open your eyes and become liberal and democratic you’re going to die out. Adapt or die.
    “the cradle of Serbia” blah blah blah. It never was, it isnt and it will never be, your words are just rubish nonsence. The Arbs race will stretch back to where it once was, and you’re going to be pig farmers cos there’s nothing there for you to do in that little shitty quag called servia.

  3. Aureola: thanks, fixed. My minds slipped on that one.
    Sam is an example of a person who does not read the post but has his own opinion based on ignorance picked up from the American MSM.

  4. well she tries to be impartial but she goes back to a one sided story telling
    I think the ratio is a total nonsense. 9:1 where you find these numbers? Serb mania encyclopedia —the ethnic engendering done by Serbs in Kosovo and in general in the whole Balkan is not seen anywhere in the world they are doing it right now in Bosnia.
    As for Serbs joining the EU is a hard to solve issue but first they have to apologize to the victims that they killed. Hitler left a little brother called Milosevic and I have never seen any Serb publicly condemning him and thousand of war criminals still living free in Serbia who killed those people 200.000 in Bosnia just 10 people that are in Hague the reality is the a good part of Serbian society is infected by a sickness called nationalism unseen anywhere in the world .

  5. Who is “she”?
    9:1 comes from early 20th century census numbers.
    Many, many Serbs have publically condemned, voted against, demonstrated against and finally got rid of Milosevic (and sent him to The Hague pretty fast). I am one of them. Where did you look if you did not see one?
    Good part of the society? How good? Is the explanation offered in my post not clear enough as to who is who there?
    Nationalism unseen in the world? Have you ever been to the USA? Serbs can’t hold a candle to the Americans when it comes to nationalism. Flags are everywhere all the time. With us or without us. It was not like that in Serbia even during the peak of nationalistic fervor (actually, it was much greater in Croatia – I went to Zagreb in 1991 and I was astounded at the number of flags everywhere, something not seen in Belgrade at that time at all).
    You see, there is a pitfal in having a blog showing up on Google News. One gets incoherent, misinfirmed, overtly-emotional and illiterate comments. Ah well…

  6. “One gets incoherent, misinfirmed, overtly-emotional and illiterate comments.”
    Well, Bora, you have to admit having the temerity to question the American consensus on Kosovo (i.e., Serbians were monstrous, the KLA were “freedom fighters”, Melosevic’s undoing was entirely attributable to American intervention, etc.) was going to draw the ire of the Wilsonian left. Many American liberals are still jacking each other off and waxing nostalgic over their era of “humanitarian intervention”.

  7. Sam an Jessy, one word . . . fools

  8. Sam, i think you should go back to school (if you actually ever attended one) and learn to read and write.
    Jesssy (funny way you spell your name . . or is that really your name??), you need to learn some facts. Firstly, 200,000 dead in Bosnia?? Are you stupid? The figure is 100,000, at highest, and that figure includes Serbs, muslims and croats.
    “Hitler left a little brother called Milosevic??” please, this isn’t CNN. More like, “Hitler left a little brother call Tudman, or Ceku perhaps”. Jessssssy, your just a poor misguided fool

  9. “Kosovo is historically the cradle of Serbia. A millenium ago Serbia was Kosovo – it is only the later wars and realignments that gave Serbia additional territory to the north, including Belgrade. All the churches, monasteries and monuments that define Serbian statehood are located in Kosovo. The emotional atachment is completely understandable.”
    Amen on this. I was in States when in 2004 Kosovars people (not Serbs), despite the ‘protection’ of UN and other foreign organizations , after Milosevic era, destroyed old monosteries of Decani and others, from 13th, 14th Century and further.
    Where is excuse for this? Noone in the world reacted with real ‘measures(ments)’ that was expected. And all those cultural heritage is semi-destroyed by Muslims, the heritage that belongs to Serbia, Serbs live there.
    And on Nationalism:
    Ii is wrong misconception that Serbs are the greatest nationalist (flags, etc.). I live in Belgrade, but while in States, I could see from the East coast, to the middle of America, and then to the west coast, not only flags everywhere but during any minor holiday, or just like that, a flag in front of each American house (I was surprised how Americans love their country and how attached they are to all political and idolatric symbols of nationalism they express through, e.g. the mentioned flags). And that was fine with me…i am not judgemental. Everyone has the right to express its own political view.
    But those person(s), (Sam, whoever ) who commented and used totally untrue and unobjective words, is not worth talking about. I guess it is one of the products of minority illiterate and ignorat part of the culture.
    Bora, we will see on EU and Serbian enthusiasm about it, I am a bit sceptical, europeans have different opinion on this and from afar (States), things look maybe different and like smells on better. Depends for who. Many academics, young professionals in certain areas of expertize are still undervalued (and without a job), beacuse of some other ‘real values’ and people who strongly hold their chairs in government.

  10. Woo-hoo! — servia.
    That’s a term that brings back the acrid smell of 1990s listservers.
    Sam, this being Memorial Day weekend, I’d like to honor your service as a veteran of the USENET wars….

  11. …destroyed old monosteries of Decani and others, from 13th, 14th Century and further.
    Where is excuse for this? Noone in the world reacted with real ‘measures(ments)’ that was expected. And all those cultural heritage is semi-destroyed by Muslims, the heritage that belongs to Serbia, Serbs live there.

    Well, hopefully someone got good pictures that can be added to wikipedia or its successor. In the long run honoring cultural sites tends to be expensive in money and effort. There’s the infrastructure upkeep costs, the decline of priests and nuns in modern society, and the general migration out of Kosovo to more modern, more prosperous areas. I bet not many people visited the gift-shops of serb Kosova or this Decani place. Many school field trips to Kosovo by the rest of the serbs during the 90s?
    In my opinion, take a bunch of pictures — enhance with photoshop as necessary, weave a compelling story around them and move on. Progressive, rational people don’t emotionally bond to hills and churches.

  12. “Progressive, rational people don’t emotionally bond to hills and churches.” Great point. I’m Albanian and I agree with the writer, being as I am a progressive and rational person. I really enjoyed the Red/Blue comparison of the Balkans to the USA — it’s so true. That’s why Yugoslavia was so great back then, there was one powerful secular state and a lot of people were happy because they were all “one”. It’s too bad the Red state population had to go batshit insane and kill people simply because they were born however many miles away and that was enough to warrant death. As good as nationalism is to rally the people it’s horrible when used to justify killing others. Genetically, there is no such thing as “race”. I just wish instead of nationalism people could all be rallied by rationalism. Progressivism is the future.

  13. Irf: Thank you so much for coming here and posting this comment! Perhaps being a Yugo-nostalgic is not something to be ashamed of or getting laughed at about any more. We are all humans and citizens of the world.

  14. Progressivism and rationalism denotes a cultureof communication, and culture in general.
    This is Visoki Decani Monasteries. It was built between 1327 and 1335 by the Serbian medieval king, St. Stephen of Decani, and was dedicated to the Ascension of the Lord. The monastery is situated in the valley of the Dečanska Bistrica river surrounded by the mountains and forests of the Prokletije mountain range. It is regarded as the largest and best preserved medieval monastery in Kosovo.In 2004, UNESCO listed the monastery on the World Heritage List, citing its frescoes as “one of the most valued examples of the so-called Palaeologan renaissance in Byzantine painting” and “a valuable record of the life in the 14th century”.
    I respect the heritage and the past of the medieval cultural art-master works as well I agree that we are all citizens of the world, as we name ourselves like that, but unfortunately many of us forget were they are coming from, or even worse deny their identity.
    Being progressive and rational in this context includes consciousness of the place where you’re coming from no matter where you are, and striving to change the world, or your closer surrounding on better.

  15. In 2004, UNESCO listed the monastery on the World Heritage List, citing its frescoes as “one of the most valued examples of the so-called Palaeologan renaissance in Byzantine painting” and “a valuable record of the life in the 14th century”.

    Here in the US, if you pay people money, they will add your name to to a book celebrating “Who’s Who in America”. It doesn’t really take much to get into that book (although there are a number of them), just a sense that something written in print, and bound nicely adds validity.
    UNESCO can go around putting the stamp of recognition on various things based on requests. I’m thinking that a bunch of antiquities lost their way during the early days of the Iraq war, and I suspect that security for them still aren’t what they could be. Respect for UNESCO stamped objects is temporarily on the wane.
    Occasionally, people move the entire monument elsewhere in order to save it from the locals so that it can be appreciated by the knowledgable or those that value it. The elgin marbles maybe; the obelisk in Paris, etc. Maybe Decani can be moved after obtaining an appropriate firman.

    …but unfortunately many of us forget were they are coming from, or even worse deny their identity.
    Being progressive and rational in this context includes consciousness of the place where you’re coming from no matter where you are, and striving to change the world, or your closer surrounding on better.

    I have a friend that practices a quaint form of ancestor worship. He says, “The blood of my ancestors fertilizes all that you see here”, as he motions out over the river valley. “All these trees, all the grass, the livestock. The things that grow here shape the whistling of the wind. No other place speaks and whispers the language of this place.”
    My friend is a nice guy, but a bit of a loon, and all these dead relatives whistling through the poplars make him melancholy, mean and prone to violent depression when drunk. I tell him he shouldn’t drink.
    We all carry the genetic markers that identify where we are from. Empires rise. Empires fall. Churches collapse. But spite, hatred and revenge remain in the genes of those that swim in shallow pools. And sometimes those base markers last longer than ordered rock arrangements, mosaics or education — given that wikipedia or oral history carries it forth to the next generations and the next generation accepts the carrier role.
    Get the pictures while you can.

  16. “Irf: Thank you so much for coming here and posting this comment! Perhaps being a Yugo-nostalgic is not something to be ashamed of or getting laughed at about any more. We are all humans and citizens of the world.”
    I’m also half-Bosnian, when I was in Sarajevo in the winter I met a few people who thought the same exact way and it surprised me. People are sick of being ‘racially profiled,’ if you will, in these countries. Realistically now, the chance for reunifying that area is very slim. The war had a real profound effect on all sides. Until people are rational(less Muslim fundamentalism in Bosnia and less Christian fundamentalism in Serbia) maybe then people will unite the way the EU has, or hell they might just join he EU, it’s probably a bit better and think about the future. I’m sick of religion and mis education or the lack of it. Darwin for the win!

  17. One can understand Mr. Boras’ nationalistic feeling for Serbia. However, the fact is that the former Yugoslavia is not and was not one country any more then Iraq is or the former Soviet Union was. It was kept together by the iron fist of Tito, just as the former Soviet Union was kept together by the iron fist of Stalin and his successors. When Tito died, his successors were unable to apply the iron fist and the country broke up. Unlike Czechoslovakia and the former Soviet Union, the breakup was not performed peacefully.

  18. “The entire 1990s wars of the Balkans were wars between city and country, between an urban, modern, democratic, liberal, pro-European mindset held by people who are educated, speak foreign languages and travel abroad, and the rural, illiterate, backwards, conservative, patriarchal, nationalistic, religious-fundamentalist mindset held by people living in small places.”
    I don’t doubt that this is one aspect of the demographics of nationalism vs cosmopolitanism. But the vanguard of militant nationalism tends to be the urban intelligentsia. That was the case in Serbonationalism, especially the clique of intellectual nationalists around Living Marxism and sociology professor Mirjana Marković (Milosevic’s wife). Similarly, urban intellectuals were the core of the synthesis of Futurism, radical nationalism, and syndicalism in WWI-era Italy that gave rise to the Fascist party. There are many other such examples.

  19. SLC: Did you read this post and comments at all? I despise nationalists of all stripes, including Serbian. Where did you get the idea that I may be one?
    The “iron fist of Tito” is a trope often invoked in the West, yet has no basis in reality. In 1991, me and my friends had to learn what ‘Serbia’, ‘Croatia’ and such even meant. We were totally taken by surprise that there are still people in the countryside who cared about such things. We were Yugoslavs and quite patriotic about it. And so were most people in cities.
    Unfortunately, a brief period of economic insecurity coupled with meddling by some foreign countries, allowed the rural-type authoritarians to get in power and to start waging wars with each other. Some of those people (as Colugo mentions), although conservative/authoritarian, moved inot cities, got impresive University diplomas and bought nice clothes so they passed themselves as “intelligentzia”. See George Will and Charles Krauthamer for their US counterparts.
    Everyone who says that Iraq is just like Balkans reveals he 1) knows nothing about Balkans and 2) knows nothing about Iraq. Joe Biden likes to make that comparison often. Having a person with such fundamental misunderstanding of history and international dynamics as President is a scary proposition.

  20. So, to follow up on the response to SLC, Yugoslavia WAS an organic state, or at least it became one by the time I was born. Me, and what Irf says in his comments above, are just two examples.
    There are literally thousands of young people on Facebook form former Yugoslavia and they ALL friend each other regardless of ethnicity and they form Yugo-nostalgic groups with huge memberships. There are Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, Montenegrins, Kosovo Albanians, Bosnians, Macedonians and others, all being friends with each other, joining groups of fans of Dordje Balasevic or people who love chocolate bananas or whatever.
    So, no, the six states will not reunite any time soon as the wounds are too fresh and the people in power are still the “old guard” in many places. It would be a political suicide for any one of them to suggest something like reunification (all those lives lost – for nothing?).
    Thus, all six will sooner or later join the EU and be reunified that way. They not just vote for each other in Eurovision, they also trade with each other more than with anyone else.
    Yugoslavia was a prosperous country and dangerously so as it showed that a “Third Way” can work well (which may be one of the several reasons the West loved to see it broken into pieces, ruined by sanctions and bombed back into the Stone Age – it is essential that only brutal capitalism is shown to be an efficient economic system).
    It was broken down by a combined effort of idiots inside and the idiots outside (read “Balkan Tragedy” by Susan Woodward) and each part ended up being NOT economically self-sufficient the way Yugoslavia was. Naturally, the old business partners resumed economic activity as soon as it was feasible and will continue to do with or without entry into the EU by various parts.

  21. Yo, j7uy5 is taking gratuitous swipes at famous serbs.

    Everyone who says that Iraq is just like Balkans reveals he 1) knows nothing about Balkans and 2) knows nothing about Iraq.

    Yeah, but once you get the Crayolas of Destiny out it’s hard to put them away.

  22. Crayolas of Destiny! Perfect! I’ll have to remember that phrase.
    And I read Joseph’s post earlier and the psychopaths Milosevic and Karadzic are mentioned in one of the quotes – with my approval. After all, I demonstrated against Milosevic back in 1991 and was happy to see him gone a decade later.

  23. Quoting Bora:
    “There are literally thousands of young people on Facebook form former Yugoslavia and they ALL friend each other regardless of ethnicity and they form Yugo-nostalgic groups with huge memberships. There are Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, Montenegrins, Kosovo Albanians, Bosnians, Macedonians and others, all being friends with each other, joining groups of fans of Dordje Balasevic or people who love chocolate bananas or whatever.”
    I totally agree, plus I am younger generation of students when we marched in 1996/7 on Protest, during cold winter with all other people and democrats who fight against Milosevic regime and media …the rest you know.
    Btw the way, Bora you made me smile with chocolate bananas:
    Cokoladna bananica rulez:) !!!
    & Plazma keks!

  24. Just a point of attribution. The term “Crayolas of Destiny” has been around for a while.

  25. Mr. Bora likes to dwell in his dream world believing that Serbs, Croats, Slovenians, Albanians, etc. were happy as clams to be living in Yugoslavia under the benevolent reign of Josef Broz Tito. I can only say, dream on. Just as the Russians, Ukranians, Belorussians, Georgians, etc. were happy as clams to be living in the former Soviet Union under the benevolent reign of good old uncle Joe Stalin. The breakup was as inevitable as the breakup of he former Czechoslovakia and the former Soviet Union. Period, end of story.

  26. SLC may say whatever he wants. But I didn’t dream it – I lived it and loved it and so did everyone else I knew.

  27. Slightly offtopic: What’s your opinion of the Croat poem — U Plavu Zoru as interpreted by Pink Martini?

  28. Haven’t heard it. Lyrics?

  29. ahhh, one of my favourite world groups Pink Martini. U plavu zoru from their album : Hang on little tomato, the lead singer sings old Dalmatian song, actually.
    here are the lyrics:
    U Plavu Zoru
    Tiha noc
    Sjene su u bijegu
    Ja cujem zvuk
    Sta blize zove me
    U plavu zoru
    Sa svjetlom, tu
    Na mojo vrata
    Ti stizes
    Naci ces
    Praznu postelju moju
    Dok vlak nosi
    Me’ daleko
    here is the song/video on youtube, but this was used on skating cup:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjT3OmW5sTE

  30. Bombing of Belgrade by NATO was exactly the same thing.
    That’s really funny.
    The whole urban-rural analysis is very interesting, and I’m going to see if I can get some folks over at ProgressiveHistorians.com to comment on it. We’ve had some good discussions about that divide in the US.