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Serbs’ expectations over EU accession diminished

Serbia’s enthusiasm to enter the EU has lessened, according to the latest Gallup poll. As the EU has opened a path for Belgrade to join the organization, some fear it will bring more economic problems to those trapped in the crisis region.

Within the week, Serbia will be presented with a questionnaire by the EU commission in what is seen as an important step forward in Serbia’s bid to join the EU. So the eyes of the government in Belgrade are now firmly on the West.

“For our citizens, as was the case for the rest of the continent, being part of the EU brings a certainty for peace and stability – a normal life,” announced Bozidar Djelic, Serbia’s Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration.

But head away from the pro-EU political rhetoric and the mood among the public in Serbia is vastly different.

In fact, a recent report found that more than half the respondents now view the EU accession negatively.

Serbian citizen Dragoljub Dingarac told RT, “You listen to the politicians and they’re so focused on joining the EU. But the EU gives all these ultimatums and it seems that our government is being dictated to and controlled by the EU.”

In post-crisis Europe many EU countries are now facing their own large struggles and there are some important questions being posed – such as just how will the EU accession help Serbia’s economy? How will the multicultural institutions built after a decade of war be sustained at a time when leading European politicians are heard saying that multiculturalism is dead?

And when unemployment in Serbia is so high, will the promises of a better future translate into actual benefits?

“In the past I joined many groups to bring down the Milosovic regime, but now we don’t see any changes,” acknowledged Bozidar, son of Dragoljub Dingarac.

The government has also come under heavy criticism from opposition parties for the poorly monitored selling of state assets in the privatization boom of the last decade

“For ten years the Serbian government has been supporting the EU with promises of a better future. But free cheese is only offered in a mousetrap,” politician Dragan Todorović, vice president and active leader of Serbian Radical Party, says. “Now there’s not even fresh milk in our shops because the government sold all the milk businesses to partners in the European Union.”

Also, industry monopolies have crippled many small businesses, such as dairy farms.

From cow to cup the dairy industry in Serbia is now no longer profitable and until the situation changes consumers aren’t going to be getting a drop of the real thing.

Farmer Dragana Jovanovic says, “The prices set were ridiculous and so farmers simply refused to accept it. Now it’s hard to find fresh milk in the shops and we have to sell our cows for meat.”

The public has been told that the milk monopoly is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to business corruption in Serbia, with rich businessman profiting from a government not strong enough or unwilling to oppose private interests.

Also, investigative documents shown to RT reveal the state lost around €20 million from the alleged undervaluing of land sales, money that should have belonged to taxpayers.

“Of course, there are certain issues that we need to deal with in the near future, and that’s corruption as well as the whole bureaucracy that exists here,” Aleksandar Miloradovic from the Serbian Investment Agency. ‘It’s a fertile soil for phenomena like corruption.’

Some people in Serbia no longer feel like EU membership will be the answer to all the country’s problems – pro-EU rhetoric holds no sway when continuing economic instability is affecting the lives of the population.