"53% of respondents support EU, 13% NATO membership"

BELGRADE -- A new polls has shown that 53 percent of citizens support Serbia's EU accession while 13 percent are in favor of the country's NATO membership.

The poll carried out by Ipsos Strategic Marketing shows that citizens who support the country's EU accession believe Serbia as a military neutral country does not have to be a member of NATO in order to be a member of the EU.

The poll was organized in connection to the intensification of Serbia's European integration process and the results were presented on Wednesday at the meeting organized by the Belgrade-based weekly Novi Magazin on the possibility for changes in the relations between Serbia and NATO after the initiation of the EU accession talks.

Assistant Minister for Defense Policy in the Ministry of Defense Miroslav Jovanović noted that Serbia's military neutral status is not an obstacle for cooperation with NATO's Partnership for Peace program and EU membership.

He listed the examples of Austria and Switzerland as military neutral countries cooperating with NATO and added that Serbia has no intention of joining NATO now that the National Assembly has adopted the decision on the military neutral status.

Representative of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Dijana Ivančić said that Serbia is not striving to NATO membership but it recognises the values it offers in terms of the stability in the region.

The cooperation is marked both by mutual understanding and limiting factors, including the 1999 bombing of Serbia and the NATO stand on the Kosovo and Metohija issue.

Active usage of the benefits of the Partnership for Peace program is at this point the only true measure of cooperation between Serbia and NATO, Serbian officials said and representatives of the NGO sector backed Serbia's NATO membership.

NATO project manager Boris Viculin said that Serbia should become a NATO member because it would bring the country a number of benefits, from the security to the economic sector.

Director of the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies Jelena Milić stated that it is the right time to re-examine the legal decision on military neutrality and the possibilities for Serbia to respond to new modes of challenges, risks and threats on its own.

Professor Predrag Simić of the Faculty of Political Sciences said that the countries wishing to access the EU need to access NATO because the EU and NATO are two parts of the same unit, the trans-Atlantic community or the West.

Director of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy Sonja Stojanović-Gajić backed more intensive cooperation between Serbia and the Partnership for Peace program with clear and precise explanations for the public on the measures carried out and their benefits for Serbia.

Austria's defence attache Reinhard Schoberl voiced the experiences of his country which cooperates with NATO although it is military neutral, while Slovak Ambassador Jan Varso presented the main tasks of the embassy which serves as Serbia's contact embassy with NATO.