Bosnians united against ISIS, divided on partners


Stability and democracy in the Balkans have suffered even as the prospect of EU accession has stabilised relations and driven reform in a turbulent and impoverished region, Reuters reports:

Kristof Bender, deputy chairman of the European Stability Initiative, a Brussels-based research group, would be surprised if creating a club of poor economies would do much to address the region’s woes. Nor could it be a “credible alternative” to the narrative of prosperity and stability inside the EU. “If this narrative evaporates, Balkan politicians will need to look for other narratives,” Bender told Reuters. “Given recent history, this is dangerous.”

Bosnians are united in their opposition to the Islamic State (IS) and on concerns over unemployment, but divided along ethnic lines on preferred international partners, according to a new nationwide poll from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) released today by the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center for Insights in Survey Research:

An overwhelming majority of Bosnians have a “mostly negative” opinion of IS (Bosniak: 85 percent; Croat: 96 percent; Serb: 92 percent). Similarly, Bosnians are united in preference for a secular state (Bosniak: 58 percent; Croat: 56 percent; Serb: 49 percent). More than half of Bosnians (55 percent) rate unemployment as the “biggest problem facing the country,” a figure that remains roughly consistent when broken down across ethnic, age and socioeconomic lines. 

Bosnians differ substantially in their affinities for the United States, Russia and Turkey, where preferences are clearly linked to ethnic background. While a majority of Bosniaks (64 percent) and Croats (56 percent) have a mostly or somewhat positive view the role of the United States, just 26 percent of Serbs hold this view. Attitudes towards accession to the European Union correlate with these preferences: while a majority of Bosniaks (65 percent) and Croats (59 percent) strongly support accession, a mere 18 percent of Serbs strongly favor joining the EU. On the other hand, the vast majority of Serbs have a positive opinion of Russia’s role in the country (89 percent), compared to 43 percent among Croats and 29 percent among Bosniaks. 

“After a long history of ethno-religious divisions, it’s encouraging to see people of all backgrounds in BiH united against religious extremism,” said Jan Surotchak. “Governmental institutions must do all in their power to address these shared concerns, and seek to understand and address the divisions that persist.”

IRI is a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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