Accession to the European Union and Perception of External Actors in the Western Balkans

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Abstract

This paper focuses on perceptions of the European Union (EU) and external actors (such as the United States, Russia, and Turkey) in six countries of the Western Balkans (WB) and Croatia in a comparative perspective. We present data generated by public opinion polls and surveys in all countries of that region in order to illustrate growing trends of EU indifferentism in all predominately Slavic countries of the region. In addition, there is an open rejection of pro-EU policies by significant segments of public opinion in Serbia and in the Republic of Srpska, Bosnia-Herzegovina. On the contrary, there is much enthusiasm and support for the West in general and the EU in particular in predominately non-Slavic countries, Kosovo and Albania. We argue that the WB as a region defined by alleged desire of all countries to join the the EU is more of an elite concept than that shared by the general population, which remains divided over the issue of EU membership. In explaining reasons for such a gap we emphasise a role of interpretation of the recent past, especially when it comes to a role the West played in the region during the 1990s.

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