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Friday, 25 January 2019

Transnational citizenship: Views of Serbia’s active diaspora

On 23 January 2019, Tena Preleć (University of Sussex) gave a seminar concerning the Serbian diaspora. This seminar was chaired by Ezgi Başaran, with SEESOX Director Othon Anastasakis as discussant. Preleć began by defining what she describes as the “active diaspora”. According to her, the active diaspora includes those diaspora members who took, or wanted to take, part in the voting process.  

Preleć’s paper was based on two surveys conducted around the 2017 Serbian presidential elections. Also taking into account the results of the diaspora voting in the elections, she argued that the Serbian diaspora’s political views had changed from the 1990s, where the prevalent political ideology among Serbs living abroad had been nationalistic. She outlined the results of the surveys as follows:

Firstly, the Serbian diaspora decisively rejects the course the country has taken.

Secondly, the top concerns for the Serbian diaspora relate to governance, rather than geopolitical issues.

Thirdly, Serbs living abroad highlighted a wide-ranging set of issues concerning the voting procedure, which hindered their ability to participate in the vote.   Preleć argued that the overall findings indicate that Serbia’s active diaspora might have the potential to participate more vigorously in the political life of the country and that, if emboldened, its weight in future elections could be much higher. She also shared with the audience the current provisions and trends in terms of the diaspora vote in the countries of the Western Balkans from a comparative perspective.  

During the Q & A session, several issues regarding the methodology of the paper were raised. While Anastasakis underscored the necessity of better defining what constitutes an active diaspora, Başaran contended that, given the small number of voters in the 2017 presidential election (around 9000 people voted out of 1 million eligible voters) and the high education level of survey respondents, it was hard to conclude that the Serbian diaspora has become less nationalistic, even though the results of the election and survey seem to be consistent with such an argument.

Ezgi Basaran (St Antony's College, Oxford)

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