The latest special edition of Kosovo Security Barometer was published in February this year and it deals with “citizens’ perceptions towards Kosovo’s main strategic partners in the regional and international levels”. The survey tackles the perception towards regional states and major world powers. Respondents were also asked about the perception towards NATO and EU and about their attitude to political dialogue with Serbia.
However, it must be noted that there is a stark difference between Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians in almost every subject. Therefore, due to the limited space of the article, only general results that reflect the attitudes of the majority of the population will be presented.
On a regional level, Albania, unsurprisingly, remains Kosovo’s closestally, while Serbia has been perceived as the most hostile country and a potential external threat to Kosovo. It is interesting that perception of Montenegro is predominantly neutral or friendly, meaning that the issue with the border demarcation agreement, that last year provoked a tear gas in Kosovo Parliament, did not influence the attitudes towards this country.
If we look at major powers, the attitude towards Western countries (USA, Germany, France, the UK, including Turkey) is very positive. France is the one that has received the lowest level of positive perceptions by the respondents, lower than Turkey which is perceived very positive. It is explained by the fact that Turkey is one of the least states where Kosovars can travel freely without visa which increase mobility between two countries. Further, the investments from Turkish companies have been given a large attention by the media than those from the EU creating an overall perception that Turkey is the biggest investor in Kosovo.
On the other hand, Russia and China are seen as obstacles for the Kosovo’s statehood and therefore as hostile countries.
Furthermore, the results show that, in spite of the visa liberalization process, the overall perception of the EU is very positive, more than 60%, and has shown a slight increase over the past years. It could be partly explained by the fact that the Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force in April 2016, which is the first contractual agreement between Kosovo and the EU.
Respondents overwhelmingly support membership in NATO and for majority of the respondents KFOR presence in Kosovo indicates strong ties with NATO. However, it is significant to emphasise that the research reveals a very limited knowledge on the structure and functioning of the alliance among the general population.
Moreover, half of the respondents are rather pessimistic that a political dialogue with Serbia is contributing to the overreaching goal – normalisations of relations. However, it is interesting that the percentage of those who believe that the relations are somehow normalized between Kosovo and Serbia have slightly increased, from 37% in 2015 to 44% in 2016. Yet it is important to have in mind that the research took place in October 2016, that is before the ‘train’ incident sparked the tensions. At the same time, most of the respondents believe that Serbia is benefiting more than Kosovo accelerating its EU integration process while Kosovo remains outside visa free regime.
The negative trend with regard to establishment of the Association of Serb Majority Municipalities only increased, which is not surprising given the strong political opposition to the agreement that even paralysed the work of the Parliament.
This article has been produced with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy. The content of this article and the opinions expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the portal European Western Balkans and in no way reflect the views and opinions of the Balkan Trust for Democracy nor the German Marshall Fund of the United States.