41% of Serbs Would Sacrifice EU Membership for Kosovo

An opinion poll says that as many as 41% of Serbs would rather keep the Kosovo province within the country than join the European Union.

A total of 1630 Serbian citizens took part in the survey, conducted by the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) in early September.

Leaders in Serbia and Kosovo have said that joining the EU is one of their main goals. That prospect is still many years in the future, though, as EU membership cannot be granted to countries involved in territorial disputes.

There has however been a slight drop in the number of respondents ready to sacrifice EU membership for Kosovo, the figure dropping 6% compared to July.

"The high percentage of people supporting what they view as a fair solution to the Kosovo problem as an alternative to EU membership can be accounted for by the fact that they don't see any concrete advantages of being within [the 27-member bloc]," a CeSID spokesman said.

Some 22% of respondents said they would be willing to accept material losses caused by any possible sanctions against Serbia by the West over the Kosovo issue.

The Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II said earlier this week that the world community should take into consideration the opinion of Serbs when determining Kosovo's status. The patriarch expressed regret that a lot of people who had never been to Kosovo and do not know what the region means for Serbs are engaged in determining its status.

He said Kosovo is "a sacred land for Serbs" and "to ignore it means to insult and abase the whole nation".

Kosovo, a region in southern Serbia with a predominantly Muslim Albanian population, has been under UN administration since 1999. Serbia is ready to grant broad autonomy to the region, while the majority of Albanians would prefer total independence.

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