A new poll has found that although people in North Macedonia are increasingly friendly towards Turkey and China, support for EU membership remains extremely strong.
According to the survey conducted by the International Republican Institute, 73 per cent of North Macedonians want to join the EU while only 24 per cent prefer not to join.
Although the figure is high, the survey, which was carried out between September 23 and 13, represents a decline of 11 percentage points from the previous IRI survey in November 2021.
“It’s very encouraging to see such strong support for EU membership because there are other non-democratic actors working hard to improve their standing within the country,” said Paul McCarthy, Europe Regional Director for IRI, which is a US-based democracy promotion organisation.
When it comes to relationships with more authoritarian states, the poll found that 87 per cent of North Macedonians strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that the country’s interests are best served with strong relations with Turkey. This represents an increase of six per cent from November 2021.
Sixty-five per cent felt the same way about China, an increase of one per cent.
Russia has meanwhile lost a little support among North Macedonians. A total of 57 per cent of respondents said they want strong relations with Moscow, down from 60 in November 2021.
Meanwhile, only 13 per cent of respondents said the country was moving in the right direction while 58 per cent said it was not. Twenty-eight per cent were neutral.
“With inflation and the price of energy rising and other economic challenges facing North Macedonia right now, our data shows that people do not believe the country is moving forward in the right direction,” said McCarthy.
“Policymakers at the national level will need to remain focused on economic issues if they want to see those numbers turn around,” he added.
The survey also suggests that the support for the main ruling Social Democrats has dwindled significantly. Only 11 per cent said that if elections were held now, they would support the Social Democrats, down from 16 per cent in November last year.
The main opposition right-wing VMRO DPMNE attracted more support with 19 per cent saying they would support the party, one point down on last year.
The junior ruling Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, has remained the largest ethnic Albanian party in the country. Seven per cent of the respondents said they supported the party, the same as last year.
Their rivals in the Albanian bloc, the Alliance for Albanians, got five per cent support, one down on last year, while BESA got four per cent, the same as last year.
The Levica (Left) party, the only parliamentary party that has supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has increased its standing, according to the survey. It gained support from six per cent of the respondents, two points more than in November 2021.
Germany is the EU partner that respondents favoured most, with 84 per cent wanting strong relations with Berlin, the same percentage as last year. The EU as a whole held second place with 82 per cent, three per cent down from last year, while the US attracted 71 per cent support, five points down from last year.
The survey was conducted by the Brima market research firm, a member of Taylor Nelson Sofres and Gallup International, with support from the National Endowment for Democracy, a US-based democracy promotion organisation.
Meanwhile, a new study on China’s global influence puts Pakistan at the top of the list.
Cambodia and Singapore are in second and third place respectively as the “most exposed” to Beijing’s influence. Among the top 10 countries most exposed to influence by China, eight are in Asia. Paraguay, North Macedonia and Albania were ranked as ‘least influenced.’
The China Index 2022 explores China’s influence in 82 countries by asking experts to respond to questions about China’s activities in their country. The study was conducted and published by the China in the World (CITW) network, an initiative of Taiwan-based anti-disinformation group, Doublethink Lab.
READ MORE: Greece and Albania head to international court over maritime borders dispute.