More interesting things about the Balkans

More interesting things about the Balkans

Athens-based Kapa Research company, one of the oldest in social research studies in Southeast Europe, has been monitoring the area of the Balkans for the past 20 years and its latest comparative research includes all nine countries of the area: Albania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Greek Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey. The research tries to find how the people of this geography face new challenges such as COVID-19, how pessimistic or optimistic they are about their country’s economy, what they think of the other countries in the region and what they feel about mother-Europe.

So let us pick up more interesting findings of the research. NATO has been at the center of hot discussions about its purpose and future role. Balkan countries such as Kosovo and Albania think that NATO should be unified and disciplined against Russia and China. Over 50 percent of the respondents of these countries believe so, but only 21 percent from Turkey and 20 percent from Greece agree with that. The statement saying “NATO is brain dead and will soon be replaced by a new defense structure” had approximately 50 percent of respondents from Turkey, Greece and Greek Cyprus agreeing with it, while only 4 percent from Kosovo and 7 percent from Albania supported it.

Should Europe strengthen its traditional relations as an ally and interlocutor with the United States, should Europe remain neutral against U.S.-China antagonism, and should Europe strengthen its cooperation with China? To these optional answers, Kosovo and Albania headed the list. Around 82 percent and 58 percent respectively want traditional relations with Europe, while no one wants to reinforce the relationship with China. Over 50 percent of the respondents from Turkey and Greece want Europe to remain neutral in the U.S.-China antagonism. None of the Balkan countries is particularly keen on Europe strengthening its relationship with China.

One interesting finding from this comparative study of the Balkans is the criteria by which Balkan countries choose to make their alliances. Diplomatic ties shared cultural values, military power and geographic proximity do not count as one might have thought. Instead, by an average of 50 percent, all nine Balkan countries believe that such an alliance would have an impact on a country’s national economy, trade and investment and that should be the criterium for allying. Hence, for the Balkan countries, the most sought out countries to ally with are the U.S. (62 percent), Germany (45 percent), Russia (31 percent), China (22 percent), France (20 percent), the U.K. (12 percent) and Arab states (10 percent).

One separate section of the research deals with the popularity of political leaders among Balkan countries. By the order of preference, the most popular leader among the Balkan people is Russian President Vladimir Putin, followed by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden. For Turkey, though, Biden has a 75 percent negative image, while U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s image is 39 percent positive. Merkel is very popular among the Turks (80 percent) but not among the Greeks (25 percent). Finally, French President Emmanuel Macron is very popular with the Greeks (77 percent) but not at all with the Turks (13 percent).

Ariana Ferentinou,