Slovak Atlantic Commission (SAC) in cooperation with the the Balkan Security Agenda (BSA) decided to identify the most common perceptions of the Serbian public about the NATO, based on the experience of policy experts, media, NGOs and state official representatives. Thus, a workshop entitled „Strategic Communication: Evaluating Serbia’s Perception of the Euro-Atlantic Integration“ was jointly organized on 19 September in Belgrade.
„Our aim was to wrap-up the most common myths about the NATO. The conclusions will be summarized and used as background communication strategy materials for the NATO Contact Point Embassy, which is currently the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Serbia, “commented on the aim of the workshop, Jan Cingel, project coordinator of the Slovak Atlantic Commission.
Lively debate indicated interesting conclusions, such as that the global overview of the Serbian perception about the NATO have mostly negative connotation because of the 1999 NATO’s bombing campaign and the current situation and relations with Kosovo. People in Serbia also tend to see NATO as a tool of US influence in the region, which is in opposition with the Serbian cooperation with Russia, whereas other part of the population accepts and welcome the NATO presence in the Western Balkans region.
Further, the gathered experts came to a conclusion that the public perceptions of the NATO in Serbia can be changed only if the political elites would publicly explain – which are the benefits of being a member of the transatlantic family. Moreover, television, creating public opinion in 75% cases, together with the social media were identified as a strong opinion-shaping tools, but still controlled by the central power, either pro-Russian or pro-American, and it leads to divided public opinion.
Inputs and views of experts helped to better understanding of the general perceptions of the Serbian population about the NATO and the whole transatlantic partnership. The activity was organized with kind support of the Slovak Embassy in Belgrade, which is the actual NATO Contact Point Embassy for Serbia in years 2013 – 14.