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Poll Shows Serbs Impatient to Join European Union

Most Serbs want to join the European Union, but are sick of what they consider European "blackmail," according to a recent survey.

Serbian flag flies after it was raised in front of the Serbian defense ministry

A majority of Serbians want their country to join the European Union

The survey by Serbia's European Integration Office showed that 61 percent of citizens wanted Serbia to join the EU, representing a six percent drop over seven months earlier.

"In May 2008, citizens supported EU integration in greater numbers but, back then, expectations were higher as major investments had come to our country," said Milica Delevic, director of Serbia's European Integration Office.

After the arrest of war-time Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic last July, Serbia was expecting a positive assessment from Brussels and ratification of the pre-accession Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU.

Serbians unhappy with speed of EU integration

The Netherlands however froze the SAA, demanding full cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague and the arrest of remaining fugitives Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic. In addition, the global financial crisis caused a drop in foreign investment that hit Serbia especially hard.

The poll showed that the country's citizens are unhappy with the speed of Serbia's EU integration and that 49 percent believe that "constant political conditions and blackmail" of Serbia by the EU is the greatest obstacle to Serbia's EU entry, while 20 percent blamed it on the "incompetence of the domestic government."

Europe has support among youth

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic at his first court appearance

Serbs thought Europe would embrace them after Karadzic was arrested

Delevic however said Serbians realized that integration is a long process and that 51 percent of them see EU membership as a path to a better future for the country's youth.

She added that young people have a more positive perception of the EU and that those aged 18 to 29 expect to have the greatest benefits from EU integration.

Serbia aims to become a candidate for EU membership in 2009 and has repeatedly stressed that EU membership is one of its primary goals.

The European Integration Office did not publish the number of the people polled in December 2008 survey.

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