The percentage of Kosovo citizens supporting the path of the country towards the EU increased this year, according to a recent survey.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 12/08/13
More than 70 percent of Kosovo citizens support the country's EU accession. [AFP]
The popularity of EU integration remains high in Kosovo, the EU office in Pristina said after a recent survey showed that if a referendum on Kosovo joining the EU was held today, 73 percent of the public would vote yes. That is 1 percent higher than a year ago.
"Recent developments, such as the opening of negotiations on the stabilisation and association agreement, could be one of the reasons for the increase of EU popularity in Kosovo. But above all, it is the determination of Kosovo's people to be part of the EU," Fatmire Terdevci, a press officer at the EU Office in Pristina, told SETimes.
Many believe that Kosovo's integration to the EU is part of a natural process that does not have any alternative.
"The latest developments have sent clear signals from Brussels that the European path of Kosovo is sure, and that has increased citizens' trust in the process of integration," Ramadan Ilazi, executive director of the Kosovo Peace Institute in Pristina, told SETimes.
The survey is the third in a series conducted by UBO Consulting on behalf of EU Perspective in Kosovo, which is an EU-funded project.
The survey was conducted in June and included all Kosovo communities. Previous surveys were in 2010 and 2012.
Of those polled, 73 percent said they are aware that the EU provides financial and technical assistance to Kosovo, 84 percent said that Kosovo should strengthen its ties with the EU and 71 percent said EU integration will be advantageous for Kosovo.
According to a statement from the EU office, the majority of respondents think that the EU will help Kosovo solve problems with corruption, crime, unemployment, democracy, defense, foreign affairs, technology and taxation.
Ramadan Ilazi agreed.
"The increased role of EULEX in fighting crime and corruption might have influenced the increase of support for the process of integration," Ilazi said, adding that Kosovo will become more European when the country's institutions are self-sufficient.
Kosovo resident Dardan Gjini, an electrician, supported that conclusion.
"We need the Europeans to help us especially when it comes to fighting crime and corruption. They have experience, they have been going through these problems before us and they know how to deal with them," Gjini told SETimes.
According to the survey, 53 percent said Kosovo is ready to join the EU and 32 percent said it is not. "This indicates slightly lower optimism among respondents about the readiness of joining the EU, compared to the previous study with 56 percent saying yes and 26 percent saying no," according to the results.
One of the main concerns of Kosovo citizens regarding integration is the difficulty in fulfilling integration and reform criteria.
Seb Bytyci, executive director of Kosovo Balkans Policy Institute, said this is related to the difficulties the country has had in gaining visa liberalisation. Bytyci told SETimes that citizens are concerned about the ability of the government to carry out work related to needed reforms.
"As a consequence, more people think that Kosovo is not ready for membership," Bytyci told SETimes.
"I think there is a lot of homework to be done by the government, especially in fighting corruption, strengthening the justice system and human rights. But what is important is that there is a strong awareness by the Kosovo institutions on the responsibilities they have in this aspect,” Ilazi told SETimes.
Kosovo Minister for European Integration Vlora Citaku said the government is committed to do its part.
"Our commitment is to finish all work and take visa liberalisation as soon as possible, within this mandate of the European Parliament and European Commission," Citaku recently told parliament.
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