Interesting finds about the Balkans

Interesting finds about the Balkans

Yesterday, I received an interesting e-mail in my Inbox. It was a survey conducted during the last two months, October and November, on the way people assessed several major topics that came to the agenda recently. There were issues such as COVID-19, economy, international relations, international alliances, popularities of countries and leaders, etc. What was particularly interesting was that the survey covered the area of the Balkans and included both Greece and Turkey. The interviews for the research took place in October, and some 7,000 people were interviewed from Albania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Cyprus, Romania, Serbia and Turkey. An essential aspect of this survey is that it is longitudinal and discovers angles that relate to different Balkan countries in a way that maybe we did not think before.

One common find that comes out from the Athens-based Kapa Research company’s survey is that the most significant problem for the Balkan countries, including Turkey, is the economy and the hardship that societies suffer because of that. Some more, some less, though. Turks seem to be more pessimistic about the state of their economy than Greeks and the Cypriots. However, a decade ago, Greeks and the Cypriots were much more pessimistic about the state of their economy and their living standards.

The appearance of this new unknown enemy, the COVID-19, profoundly impacted the whole planet, but it also tested the trust towards science and medicine. The less confidence the country’s people have towards their scientific community, the higher the mortality rate. The same applies to the Balkan countries, with some of them going through extreme difficulty in curbing the impact of the pandemic.

The onslaught of COVID-19 brought up the issue of medical care that needs to be provided by each country. For most of the Balkans and elsewhere, the level of medical care that the state can provide to its citizens became a central issue. Countries that opted for a smaller national health system favoring the private medical sector are facing fierce public reaction. In the Balkan countries, the research showed that the people of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey trusted most the medical and scientific battle against the pandemic (50 percent, 28 percent and 20 percent), with Bulgarian showing just 8 percent trust in their doctors and medical scientists.

For the Balkan countries, the most important issues that their country faces are unemployment, high prices, poverty, and health; the latter is the most critical issue for Bulgaria, which is suffering the worst from COVID-19 in the Balkans and Europe.

However, when it came to the economy, Turks seem to be the most pessimistic of all the Balkan countries over their country’s economy, showing just 11 percent of hope. In comparison, Kosovars appear the most optimistic with 26 percent, followed by the Greeks with 21 percent.

How do the Balkan countries feel towards each other? As expected, Greece, Cyprus is the country most friendly to each other with 90 percent, followed by Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria. But Turkey is the most hostile Balkan country toward Greece with 42 percent hostility, followed by North Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania.

When it comes to Turkey, the friendliest country is North Macedonia, with 77 percent friendliness, followed by Albania and Kosovo. On the other hand, the least friendly are the Cypriots with 67 percent hostility, 29 percent neutrality and 8 percent friendliness, and Greece being 46% hostile but 43 percent neutral and 11 percent friendly.

Balkans has been a corner of Europe that has often used wars to sort out their accounts among themselves. So, to the question of whether the respondents from the Balkan countries fear a “heated incident” with their neighboring countries, the answers showed that the tension is still present. Turks fear most of an incident with their neighbors happening in the next few months. Around 35 percent fear a lot and 35 percent fear enough. The Cypriots follow it with a total of 55 percent and Greeks with 49 percent. Bulgarians are the least concerned about such an eventuality— only 11 percent in total fear of any adversity in their neighborhood.

Another exciting find that came out of the research was which countries do the people of the Balkan countries think of as the most influential. It comes out that the United States and Germany are seen as ideal allies for most Balkan states, with the influence of China and Russia declining significantly. Also, another exciting find, the European Union has ceased to be the undisputed vision of the Balkans. People of the Balkans now question the shared spirit of Europe, and they believe that alliances should be formed based on the degree of impact it has on their country’s economy.

But there is a lot more in the Kapa Research report that merits another article next week.

Ariana Ferentinou, study,