The results of research into Bosnia and Herzegovina’s citizens’ attitudes to the EU were presented in Sarajevo last week.
With the support of the EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, researcher Srdjan Puhalo produced a publication "On the Way to the EU", based on surveys of 1,500 adult B&H citizens in 61 municipalities that was carried out in December 2010.
The survey participants were asked, among other things, how they view the concept of the European Union, how much they personally feel European, and what their fears about the EU might be, and what they believe could be the benefits of EU membership.
Tija Memisevic, Director of the European Research Centre in Sarajevo who also contributed to the publication, presented problems related to integration of Western Balkans in the EU. Another contributor, Nermina Mujagic of the Faculty of Political Science in Sarajevo, presented her analysis of civic perceptions of the EU "between the universal and the ethical".
Srdjan Puhalo said the research shows that the first association B&H citizens have toward the EU is better economy.
"Economic topics lead the way, and the first thing that people say comes to mind is more employment and a better future for youth. People see the EU as something that would bring them a better economic life," said Puhalo.
He stressed that 90 per cent of B&H citizens want to join the EU. Of these, 43 per cent want membership no matter what, while a large number supported membership "only if it will bring me some benefit".
"Therefore, benefits are expected," he said. "This key point that unites all these people and that will orientate them towards the EU."
Interestingly, 54 per cent of those polled said they feel European while 43.5 per cent said they do not feel European.
"Croats feel the most European, followed by Bosniacs. Serbs feel the least European," said Puhalo and added that fears about European integration, especially in Republika Srpska, concern the abolition of the Entities.
Co-author Tija Memisevic emphasized that massive popular support for EU accession is not reflected in concrete action on the part of politicians.
"The problem is that the actions of political parties do not reflect the wishes of citizens, which is why at the last elections the EU was not mentioned much," said Memisevic. "Politicians avoid giving information about the EU and citizens are deliberately manipulated. Once you resolve to opt for the EU, you have to take responsibility: the process becomes transparent, you have to show results. You move from populist to rational politics, and that narrows the scope for action among political elites."
Source: European Union