Jovic: Citizens believe Brussels Dialogue is leading to Kosovo’s recognition and shutdown of Serb institutions

There is much information on Kosovo. However, it was chosen with a purpose to send: two messages: a) President Vucic is serious about this issue and b) one cannot live with Albanians. Also, there are attempts to swap the deep emotional connection and identification with the “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia“ narrative with Vucic’s narrative: “we must finally solve the problem”; and with the tabloid narrative which is turning this positive emotion into a fear that we cannot live with Albanians so therefore – “we should separate from them”. These are some of the main conclusions of a recent public opinion poll on citizens’ attitudes towards Kosovo. An associate at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Belgrade, Nikola Jovic, shared them on the KoSSev portal’s „Propitivanje“ talk-show.

The KoSSev portal talked to Jovic about how available information on Kosovo is for citizens and what they know about Kosovo and the Pristina negotiation process.

Jovic is also the author of one of the most comprehensive studies conducted on the territory of central Serbia on the topic of citizens’ attitudes towards Kosovo, as well as dialogue with Pristina. Over 1,100 respondents were surveyed across one hundred and twenty locations in central Serbia as part of the study.

„The Kosovo issue shares the fate of many other major issues in our society. It is symbolized by the complete absence of free information, which entails dialogue by all actors who believe that it is important to share different perspectives regarding Kosovo’s future status,“ Jovic said.

A handful of information about Kosovo conceal what the government wants to conceal

Jovic explained that Kosovo is an important topic and that people are interested in information related to Kosovo. However, according to the results of their survey, 60% of respondents do not know what the policy towards Kosovo actually entails.

“They do not understand what kind of policy the government in Serbia is leading when it comes to the future status of Kosovo,“ he underlined.

When you look at the Serbian media market, 85% of these media outlets have actually turned into – not a source of information for citizens – but into a „PR“ agency for the current government. And when you take a look at tabloid media that supports the government, their sole aim is to build up the ruling party’s rating, while informing citizens is completely removed as a goal of the media

According to Jovic, a handful of information about Kosovo conceals what the government wants to conceal in the dominant media space – „85% of which is comprised of government-backed media.“

„Kosovo is a common topic, but it does not address what life in Kosovo is like. It only addresses the political aspect of marketing which is important to the government,“ he explained.

Well-selected information on Kosovo

Jovic also emphasized that well-selected information on Kosovo is used to send two very important messages – a) President Vucic is serious about this topic and b) one cannot live with Albanians.

“But the citizens do not really know what President Vucic’s policy towards Kosovo is” – he added.

Vucic’s constituents believe his idea is not a solution but a status quo

Speaking about Vucic’s constituents, Jovic said that Vucic did not prepare them for “something that he presented in his speeches, which is we have to reach an agreement with the Albanians, and that implies some sort of solution of the Kosovo status.“

“His constituents believe that his idea is absolutely not a solution but a status quo,“ Jovic added.

In regard to the Brussels Dialogue, Jovic pointed out that 3 important pieces of information emerge from their research: 1. every other respondent supports the dialogue, 2. 63% of respondents believe they do not have enough information about what was agreed upon there, and 3. „they see the consequences of the Brussels Dialogue as negative even with as little information as they have“ (40% of respondents believe that the shutting down of Serbia’s institutions in the north was a consequence of the dialogue, and almost 49% of them think that the Brussels Dialogue is gradually leading to Kosovo’s recognition).

Seven solutions to the Kosovo issue – none have sufficient support for a referendum

The respondents were provided with seven potential solutions to the Kosovo issue, which had been presented to the public in recent years – 6 of them implied a framework for recognizing independence, and the last solution focused on de jure non-recognition, allowing entry into the UN in exchange for the Association of Serb-majority Municipalities.

Not a single solution received sufficient support for a possible referendum – Jovic said.

He also pointed out that the results of the research indicated that the name to be given to the final agreement was very important.

„Independence is a very sensitive word when it comes to that potential referendum, I believe that people are very sensitive to it,“ he added.

The survey also revealed that 70% of the respondents identify with the narrative „Kosovo is the heart of Serbia“.

The survey also showed a very deep trans generational connection between the respondents and Kosovo, which is very emotional, but also that for seven years we have had an offensive media war with this emotional discourse and that changing it would be very difficult

When asked what is changing the emotional discourse about Kosovo and who is standing behind it, Jovic pointed out that there are two narratives – based on what can be seen daily in the media.

„I think there is a play on two narrative levels, the first one is what President Vucic is promoting – that we must make a decision. It implies a final solution and that it is in our interest to take that step and finally solve the problem that impedes our economic or any other future. This is one way in which emotions are covered by a rational tone, that is, what the president is representing,“ he explained.

The second narrative level, on the other hand, is conducted by the tabloids – Jovic said.

„It demonizes and dehumanizes Albanians, thus replacing positive emotions about Kosovo with fear-based emotions. And that fear says that we cannot be together and that it may be better, even though we have that identity and that depth of emotional trans generational connection with Kosovo, to actually protect ourselves by not sharing one space, institutions and future, and that we should separate,“ Jovic concluded.

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