More interesting things about the Balkans
Athens-based Kapa Research, one of the oldest in social research studies in South Eastern Europe, has been monitoring the Balkan region for 20 years and its latest comparative research includes all nine countries in the region: Albania, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Greek Cyprus, Romania, Serbia and Turkey. Research is trying to find out how the inhabitants 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 other countries in the region and what they think of mother-Europe.
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So let us pick up more interesting search results. NATO has been at the center of lively discussions about its purpose and future role. Balkan countries like Kosovo and Albania believe that NATO should be unified and disciplined against Russia and China. Over 50 percent of respondents from these countries believe it, but only 21 percent from Turkey and 20 percent from Greece agree with this. The statement that “NATO is brain dead and will soon be replaced by a new defense structure” had around 50% of respondents from Turkey, Greece and Greek Cyprus agreeing, while only 4% of the Kosovo and 7% of Albania supported it.
Should Europe strengthen its traditional relations of ally and interlocutor with the United States, should it remain neutral in the face of American-Chinese antagonism, and should Europe strengthen its cooperation with China? ? To these optional responses, Kosovo and Albania top the list. About 82% and 58% respectively want traditional relations with Europe, while no one wants to strengthen relations with China. More than 50 percent of those polled from Turkey and Greece want Europe to remain neutral in the US-China antagonism. None of the Balkan countries particularly want Europe to strengthen its relations with China.
An interesting finding of this comparative study of the Balkans is the criteria by which the Balkan countries choose to make their alliances. Diplomatic ties, shared cultural values, military might and geographic proximity don’t matter as one might think. Instead, at 50% on average, the nine Balkan countries believe that such an alliance would have an impact on the national economy, trade and investment of a country and that this should be the criterion for alliance. Thus, for the Balkan countries, the countries most sought after to ally are the United States (62%), Germany (45%), Russia (31%), China (22%), France (20%), the United Kingdom (12%) and the Arab States (10%).
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A separate section of the research deals with the popularity of political leaders among the Balkan countries. In order of preference, the most popular leader among the people of the Balkans is Russian President Vladimir Putin, followed by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden. For Turkey, however, Biden has a negative image of 75%, while the image of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is positive at 39%. Merkel is very popular among Turks (80%) but not among Greeks (25%). Finally, French President Emmanuel Macron is highly regarded by the Greeks (77%) but not at all by the Turks (13%).