Relations between Serbia and Kosovo may seem tense. But a new poll by an NGO shows that an overwhelming majority of Serbians wouldn’t support armed conflict in order to reclaim the province, which unilaterally declared independence in 2008. EURACTIV Serbia reports.
74% of Serbians polled wouldn’t support war in order to keep Kosovo in Serbia, while 16% provided no answer. Only 10% expressed support for armed conflict in order to retain the Albanian-majority province.
Moreover, 3/4ths of those polled support the EU-facilitated negotiations on the so-called normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, while less than 1 in 10 supports abandoning the process, which is an important part of the EU accession process for Serbia.
Formal recognition of Kosovo by Serbia still remains taboo, with only 8% of those surveyed being willing to support independence if this ensures stability and contributes to Serbia’s development.
Otherwise, the majority of those surveyed appear to be ready to support any solution for settling relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
31% are ready for any formal solution for Kosovo that does not imply formal recognition of independence, and 30% say that any deal that would ensure the protection of Serbs is a good solution. Only 11% support Kosovo’s partition.
The poll was conducted by the Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCBP) a month ago, using a representative sample of 1,403 adults.
Kosovo is widely seen as an important part of Serbian culture and identity, but this attachment comes into conflict with a resentful Albanian majority in the province. Kosovo hosts UNESCO-protected medieval Serbian monasteries, and a Serbian minority concentrated in the northern part of the province.
This is the basis for the other reality revealed by the poll: An overwhelming majority of Serbs (around 80%) don’t have any personal connection to Kosovo in terms of friends or family living there. 2 out of 3 surveyed has never been to Kosovo, with only an estimated 1 in 14 visiting Kosovo since the conflict between Albanians and Serbs intensified in 1999.
Serbians don’t see the situation in Kosovo as a risk for internal security, with only 3% thinking Kosovo represents a threat. According to their opinion, the main internal threats for Serbia are corruption and crime (35%), politicians and poor governance (31%).
Looking more into relations between the Western Balkans in general, nearly 40% said they fear that conflict may erupt in the next 5 years, with 29% responding by “mostly yes”, and an additional 9% with “very much”.
Relations between Kosovo and central Serbia have been problematic for decades, with the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo decrying oppression and discrimination.
Hostilities escalated in the 1990s after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The conflict ended after NATO bombed Serbia. Kosovo declared independence in 2008 without the consent of Belgrade, and this was supported by more than 110 countries, including all but five EU member states.
Despite international efforts, 18 years later the two sides are not close to defining the permanent future of their relations, as Pristina insists on independence, which remains an unacceptable solution to the Serbian government and a large part of the population.
The aim of the EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is to strike deals in support of practical cooperation in various sectors, including transport, energy and the circulation of people, in order to make everyday life easier, and help support the regional economy.