The European Union could be losing its appeal as a majority of Serbians are now against joining the Brussels-led bloc for the first time ever. While Serbia has sought to join the EU for nearly 15 years after first submitting an application in 2009, it is not expected to join the bloc until 2025 at the earliest. However, a new poll shows that the number of Serbians who are against joining the European Union is higher than those who want to become a member.
The poll, conducted by Ipsos and published in Blic newspaper, revealed that 44 percent of participants are against membership while 35 percent are in favour.
Ipsos’ Marko Uljarevics said it was the first time ever the number of those opposed to EU membership surpassed those in favour in the country.
He said: “There has been a clear trend of an increase in the number of people who oppose the EU amid a sharp decline in those who support Serbia’s European integration.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić reacted to the results by insisting that the country should continue “our European path and that we should fight for our dignified path to Europe”.
However, he recognised that the findings were similar to opinions held by his own ruling Serbian Progressive Party.
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Mr Vučić added: “We should keep our independence in decision-making, at least until we become a member of the EU.”
Serbian EU accession talks started in 2014 but tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have held up the process.
In recent weeks, the EU has decried Serbia’s long-standing friendship with Russia in the wake of the Ukrainian invasion.
Serbia has condemned the invasion and Russian aggression but has not imposed international sanctions against Moscow.
Responding to this, Mr Vulin told a public Serbian broadcaster: “They are measuring our love for Europe by our hatred toward Russia.
“If you love Europe, you have to hate Russia.
“Well, I don’t want to hate Russia, I don’t want to hate anyone.
“I have the right not to lose a single friend, I don’t participate in your conflicts.”
An EU representative visiting Serbia last week tried to encourage its integration into the EU by claiming that Serbia will get “ten times more funding from the EU than it is getting now”.
This comes as the number of Ukrainians who want their country to join the EU rose to a record high of 91 percent by the end of March, according to a poll by the Rating research agency showed on Tuesday.
Support for EU membership has been stuck around 60 percent for the past three years but started to climb rapidly after Russia invaded in February.