Young Serbs turning against joining EU – and opt for RUSSIA instead
Research conducted by the Institute for European Affairs showed that while most Serbs still want to join the EU, a majority of the young would prefer to see Serbia team up with Russia. In a presentation last week, the report revealed 55 per cent of Serbians on average support integration into the EU. But more than half of people under 29 are instead looking to Russia for leadership as they turn their back on their European neighbours.
Serbia first applied for EU membership in December 2009, and was recommended as an official candidate in October 2011 - although it is still undergoing the accession process along with several other Balkan states. However despite not yet officially entering the bloc, young people are already looking to halt negotiations.
Entitled "Serbia after Brexit - where citizens see Serbia", the study found 51 per cent of the young think Serbia should stop EU integration, while 60 per cent of them think Crimea should be recognised as a part of Russia.
Naim Leo Besiri, from the Belgrade-based Institute for European Affairs, said young people had been showing increased resistance to the European idea for some time. He noted many people in Serbia, especially the young, know there is more democracy and economic freedom in the EU but still prefer "Russia's model of society." The executive director added it was important to explain what the benefits of being a member of the bloc were, saying: "Serbia's negotiation team with the EU must explain to citizens what the idea of the EU is."
According to the same research, people in Serbia still see Croatia - a full EU member since 2013 - as their biggest enemy - closely followed by the US and Albania.
In 1999, Serbia was bombed by NATO alliance countries during the war in Kosovo - after which Serbia received independence in 2008. Now NATO membership is also causing friction among Eurosceptics.
Tibor Moldvai, from the Institute for European Affairs said: "Membership in NATO is also still controversial since 82 per cent of the population is against it and younger people are even more against it. "That is odd, since they rarely remember the bombing in the 1999." Professor Srbijanka Turajlic, a former deputy minister of education, added the young in Serbia learn just one part of history - which is one reason why their outlook is so conservative. He said: "Young people have no knowledge of Serbia's negative role in the Yugoslavia conflicts. They need to be more informed what happened during the wars in former Yugoslavia."