Voice of Russia - June 14, 2011
Serbians not too keen on joining NATO
An overwhelming majority of the Serbians have a negative opinion of the plans of their leadership to start the process of joining NATO. This was obviously demonstrated on Monday, ahead of the NATO conference on strategic military partnership in Belgrade. Hundreds of people went into the streets to protest against President Boris Tadic's pro-NATO policy.
For ordinary Serbians NATO is first of all associated with devastating bombings of Belgrade in 1999. According to public opinion polls, 75% of Serbian citizens do not accept the policy of joining the alliance.
Many people believe that holding a NATO conference so soon after the extradition of General Ratko Mladic to the Hague is an act of national humiliation. Instead of suing NATO in the International Court for numerous victims and the collapse of Yugoslavia, the authorities are developing a close military cooperation with the bloc.
Moreover, the Serbian Defence Ministry has declared that "holding the conference will raise the clout of the country on the international arena". This is not a very politically correct explanation for their own people, believes the head of the Centre for Studying the Current Balkan Crisis Yelena Guskova:
"People have not forgotten the bombings, deprivations, grief and isolation of the country. This is why they march in the streets protesting against NATO. The country's leadership is sure that holding the conference in Belgrade is a sign of a good attitude to Serbia. But if Serbia, which was bombed in the past, joins NATO, this will be the justification of the NATO policy in that period and Serbia will pass its own indictment."
Serbians who live in Kosovo and Metohija are also utterly disappointed. Serbia lost its lands exactly because of the NATO policy. Serbian politician Marko Jaksic calls the decision of the Serbian authorities to host the NATO conference "masochistic":
"NATO bombed Yugoslavia for 79 days. Over 800 children were killed, the number of cancer patients has increased by six times because the alliance used shells with depleted uranium, and the country suffered damage of more than $200 billion. In the end, it was due to NATO that Serbia lost Kosovo which makes up 15% of its territory. This is how the alliance contributed to the good of our country".
However, it would be wrong to say that all Serbians are against integration with Europe. They support cooperation with the EU and joining it in the future, but they do not want to join NATO. This is what Alexander Karasiov, the head of a department of the Institute of Slavonic Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, says:
"There is a consensus about joining the EU. Most Serbians are in favour of this, joining the EU is important for both intellectuals and businessmen. As for relations with NATO, the problem is much more complicated. We can see a definite rift here. The majority of those who want the country to join the EU are against Serbia joining NATO".