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Per­cep­tica (www.per­cep­tica.com) is a team of pro­fes­sion­als spe­cialised in cre­at­ing in­no­va­tive in-depth re­ports based on on­line me­dia an­a­lyt­ics. Map­ping brand per­cep­tions among cus­tomers pro­vides valu­able in­sights for help­ing brands, in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions thrive.

This sur­vey mon­i­tors sen­ti­ment towards the events in Greece in the light of the ref­er­en­dum on ac­cept­ing or re­ject­ing the agree­ment with the coun­try’s cred­i­tors. So­cial me­dia com­ments, blog posts, fo­rum dis­cus­sions, and com­ments in news me­dia out­lets were an­a­lysed to out­line pub­lic at­ti­tudes in eight coun­tries in South­east Europe (SEE). The re­port cov­ers over 1200 on­line com­ments pub­lished dur­ing the pe­riod im­me­di­ately prior to and af­ter the July 6 ref­er­en­dum.

Bulgaria

In Bul­gar­ian so­cial me­dia, sen­ti­ment towards de­vel­op­ments in Greece was pre­dom­i­nantly neg­a­tive. Pos­i­tive opin­ions and voices in sup­port of Greece were out­num­bered by neg­a­tive com­ments al­most 2 to 1. A gen­eral no­tion through­out on­line com­ments was that “debts ought to be paid” and that it was un­fair for cer­tain coun­tries to be ex­empt from pay­ing debts. Neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes were es­pe­cially prom­i­nent in re­gard to prime min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras and his govern­ment, as nearly a half of all men­tions of him and his cab­i­net were neg­a­tive. Greek peo­ple, how­ever, at­tracted more sym­pa­thy, as com­menters of­ten noted that they had to en­dure a regime im­posed on them by “thieves” and “failed Com­mu­nists”.

Sen­ti­ment towards Greece's cred­i­tors, on the other hand, was rather neu­tral. Only a few com­menters blamed the Troika for the sit­u­a­tion in Greece or hailed its ac­tions. Bul­gar­i­ans' view of the EU and its lead­ers though was more nu­anced, es­pe­cially in re­gards to Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, seen by most as a key player in the Greek cri­sis. Pos­i­tive com­ments about the EU out­num­bered those ac­cus­ing the bloc of be­ing too pas­sive or of “try­ing to get rid” of Greece.

A num­ber of Bul­gar­i­ans noted Russia's role in the cri­sis and its at­tempts to alien­ate Greece from Europe. Some 16% of com­menters cov­ered by this sur­vey blamed the sit­u­a­tion in Greece on Russia and its pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. Con­versely, about 4% were of the opin­ion that Moscow of­fers Greece the only es­cape from the “greedy cred­i­tors”.

The ef­fects of a pos­si­ble GrEXIT on Bulgaria were not a hot talk­ing point for Bul­gar­i­ans. Their com­ments were pre­dom­i­nantly neu­tral and con­cerned mostly the state of Greek banks in Bulgaria.

Croa­tia

In Croa­tia, sen­ti­ment towards the sit­u­a­tion in Greece very much re­sem­bled that in Bulgaria. As mem­bers of the EU, Croa­t­ians were not happy to see some­one bend the rules, as they per­ceived the Greeks to be do­ing. Hence, they were less than ap­pre­cia­tive of the ac­tions of the Greek govern­ment, which many saw as Com­mu­nist, and there­fore “detri­men­tal to Greek peo­ple's in­ter­ests”. Croa­t­ians tended to sym­pa­thize with the peo­ple of Greece to some ex­tent, al­though in some cases they were de­scribed as “greedy” and “lazy”.

While Greece's cred­i­tors were sel­dom a topic of con­ver­sa­tion, the EU was a mat­ter of heated de­bate. Un­like other coun­tries in the re­gion, the dis­cus­sion in Croa­tia was not as fo­cused on Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, de­spite an oc­ca­sional men­tion of her name. The big talk­ing point was whether Croa­tia had ac­tu­ally ben­e­fited from join­ing the EU, with the ma­jor­ity of com­menters hold­ing the view that mem­ber­ship in the bloc was good for their coun­try. Nev­er­the­less, many were dis­sat­is­fied with the EU, es­pe­cially in the wake of the Greek cri­sis and the prospects of be­ing

forced “to feed the Greek vul­tures”.

Slove­nia was also men­tioned in a no­table amount of com­ments in con­nec­tion with its unique sit­u­a­tion as an euro area mem­ber state that has al­ready sub­si­dized Greece with some 1.6 bil­lion euro, as most com­menters ex­pressed doubt about Croa­tia's own po­ten­tial euro area ac­ces­sion.

Many Croa­t­ians also noted that their coun­try was in pretty much the same sit­u­a­tion as Greece and should care­fully con­sider its next move. A small mi­nor­ity of com­ments sug­gested that the Greek cri­sis would, in fact, be ben­e­fi­cial for Croa­t­ians as tourists would now opt for the Adri­atic re­sorts.

Re­pub­lic of Mace­do­nia

As could be ex­pected, given the long-stand­ing con­flict with Greece over the name of their coun­try, Mace­do­nians were rather neg­a­tively dis­posed to their south­ern neigh­bours in their on­line com­ments - Mace­do­nia is the only coun­try among those in­cluded in the sur­vey where com­menters ex­pressed a pre­dom­i­nantly neg­a­tive sen­ti­ment towards Greece. Fur­ther­more, the neg­a­tive com­ments out­weighed not only the pos­i­tive ones, but the neu­tral ones as well. They of­ten im­plied that Greeks were, in fact, dig­ging their own grave, while try­ing to “de­stroy Mace­do­nia”.

Nev­er­the­less, voices in sup­port of Greek peo­ple could be heard even in Mace­do­nia. Some Mace­do­nians said they wished their com­pa­tri­ots were as ac­tive on po­lit­i­cal is­sues as the Greeks, draw­ing a clear dis­tinc­tion in the per­cep­tion of Greek peo­ple, on the one hand, and the Greek state and po­lit­i­cal elite on the other. Com­menters of­ten made fun of the hypocrisy of Mace­do­nians who love to bad­mouth Greeks but when it comes to sum­mer hol­i­days Greece re­mains the top des­ti­na­tion for Mace­do­nian tourists by a clear mar­gin.

Mace­do­nians' neg­a­tive sen­ti­ment towards Greece pro­jected it­self onto the EU and its lead­ers, as well. Com­menters claimed that the bloc had failed to do enough to hum­ble the Greeks and teach them to re­spect the rules. The view that Europe would do well “to get rid” of Greece was also rather pop­u­lar.

Com­ments on the ef­fects of a pos­si­ble GrEXIT on Mace­do­nia were rel­a­tively few but rather po­lar­ized. About 8% of com­menters saw a GrEXIT as a great op­por­tu­nity to fi­nally get around the Greek block­ade on Mace­do­nia's EU and NATO ac­ces­sion. An­other 6%, how­ever, warned of a pos­si­ble neg­a­tive im­pact given their coun­try's de­pen­dency on the Greek econ­omy.

Ser­bia

The opin­ion of Serb in­ter­net users had its specifics stem­ming from a mul­ti­tude of fac­tors, in­clud­ing the his­toric Serbo-Greek friend­ship. Thus, Ser­bia was among the few coun­tries in the re­gion where at­ti­tude towards Greece's ac­tions was pro­nouncedly pos­i­tive, with com­menters speak­ing about the “heroic” Greek peo­ple.

Neg­a­tive sen­ti­ment towards Greece was mainly prompted by ar­ti­cles about the ex­tent of cor­rup­tion in the coun­try, a ma­jor fac­tor con­tribut­ing to the debt cri­sis. In this con­text, Greeks were de­scribed as “typ­i­cal Balkan peo­ple”, and “same as the Serbs” – a rather neg­a­tive no­tion, ac­cord­ing to com­menters them­selves.

While Greece's cred­i­tors failed to at­tract much at­ten­tion, the EU and its lead­ers were of­ten de­picted as the vil­lains in the story. Less than one fourth of com­ments showed a pos­i­tive sen­ti­ment towards the bloc. About half of all com­ments, on the other hand, spoke neg­a­tively of the EU, with a sub­stan­tial por­tion of them call­ing for a ref­er­en­dum on Ser­bia's fu­ture EU ac­ces­sion. Com­menters said they wanted the Serb peo­ple's voice to be heard the same way that of the “brotherly” peo­ple of Greece was heard. Russia's in­volve­ment in the Greek cri­sis was an­other is­sue that trig­gered po­lar­ized opin­ions. Neg­a­tive sen­ti­ment towards Russia slightly out­weighed the pos­i­tive one, by 35% to 31%. Many of the pos­i­tive com­ments called for Chris­tian Eastern Or­tho­dox coun­tries like Ser­bia, Greece and Russia to group up against the West. On the other end of the spec­trum, many com­menters noted the “inadequacy” of Rus­sophilia in Ser­bia.

Moldova

Moldova, with its large Rus­sian-speak­ing mi­nor­ity, is a spe­cial case among SEE states. In fact, much of the de­bate re­gard­ing the Greek ref­er­en­dum took place in Rus­sian.

Nat­u­rally, Rus­sian speak­ers were rather sup­port­ive of Greece and its peo­ple, con­grat­u­lat­ing them on what they saw as a “bold de­ci­sion.” Anti-EU, anti-IMF, anti-US sen­ti­ment dom­i­nated, with many com­menters ex­press­ing their joy at see­ing Greece dis­tance it­self from the West. Many pointed to the fact that Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras was the only leader of his coun­try in re­cent his­tory to have grad­u­ated from a Greek univer­sity and not a U.S. one. Moldova was the only coun­try

in­cluded in the sur­vey where the U.S. was men­tioned al­most as fre­quently as the EU in con­nec­tion with the Greek cri­sis.

A large num­ber of com­ments in Rus­sian touched upon re­la­tions with Russia, slam­ming Rus­so­phobe politi­cians in Moldova. Com­ment­ing on ar­ti­cles cov­er­ing the prob­lems of the 20,000 Moldovans re­sid­ing in Greece, they shared the view that Russia was a much bet­ter des­ti­na­tion for Moldovan mi­grant work­ers than Greece could ever be.

Opin­ions voiced in Ro­ma­nian were rather less nu­anced than those in Rus­sian, with a much larger por­tion of neu­tral com­ments. Neg­a­tive sen­ti­ment towards Greece and its peo­ple pre­vailed slightly over pos­i­tive. Com­menters em­pha­sized the fact that Greeks were to blame for their coun­try's un­com­pet­i­tive econ­omy. They fur­ther ar­gued that Greeks had long enough lived as par­a­sites on the back of the EU. There were voices in sup­port of the Greek peo­ple, say­ing they were “hard-work­ing” and “did not de­serve such a fate”. Far fewer voices were raised in sup­port of Tsipras, who was nev­er­the­less seen as a bet­ter op­tion than Moldovan politi­cians “who want to sell their coun­try to the Rus­sians”.

Slove­nia

Only 26% of posts in the Slove­nian so­cial me­dia cov­ered by this re­search were neu­tral in tone. A large por­tion cited the state­ment of the Eurogroup pres­i­dent Jeroen Di­js­sel­bloem, who warned that there would be no ne­go­ti­a­tions if Greece votes “No” in the ref­er­en­dum.

The pre­dom­i­nant sen­ti­ment was neg­a­tive towards all the par­ties in­volved, as most re­marked that Greece had noth­ing ex­cept its glo­ri­ous his­tory and sea­side but thanks to the loans it had re­ceived, it had man­aged to keep its econ­omy in good shape over the years. If these were taken out of the equa­tion, Greece would be very much the same as Bulgaria, they as­serted. Some of the most widely dis­cussed top­ics were Greece's un­com­pet­i­tive econ­omy and cor­rup­tion at all lev­els. The EU's sol­i­dar­ity with Greece was an­other point of dis­cus­sion, as com­menters were adamant that it was high time Greeks started work­ing and re­pay­ing their mas­sive debt. Users com­pared Greece to a “bot­tom­less bag”, while oth­ers wor­ried about the es­tab­lish­ment of a mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship in the coun­try.

Com­menters were also rather crit­i­cal of Greece's lenders and the EU. Ac­cord­ing to some, the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of huge loans by some coun­tries was part of a plan by the EU and the cred­i­tors aimed at en­slav­ing their peo­ple. There were also ac­cu­sa­tions against the banks based in France and Ger­many, which were per­ceived to be pock­et­ing the money of the other mem­ber states.

Some com­menters, how­ever, hailed Tsipras for “ac­tu­ally stand­ing up against Brus­sels' dic­ta­to­rial ways”. Oth­ers praised the Greeks for be­ing the only peo­ple with courage to stand up to the “for­eign ex­ploiters”. Thus, once again the word sol­i­dar­ity was used in calls to stand up for the peo­ple of Greece.

Ro­ma­nia

The opin­ion of so­cial me­dia users in Ro­ma­nia on Greece's fi­nan­cial is­sues was pre­dom­i­nantly neg­a­tive. The ma­jor­ity of the neg­a­tive com­ments were di­rected at the Greek govern­ment and the Greek po­lit­i­cal elite in par­tic­u­lar.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ro­ma­nian com­menters, Greeks had them­selves to blame for their sit­u­a­tion be­cause they “lied when they en­tered the Euro­zone and fab­ri­cated the data re­quired for ac­ces­sion”. Ac­cord­ing to most, the po­lit­i­cal elite in the coun­try is “hyp­o­crit­i­cal” and all politi­cians “lie and blame oth­ers for the coun­try's poor fi­nan­cial man­age­ment”.

Some were ex­treme in their com­ments, sug­gest­ing that the EU did not need Greece at all, and that no coun­try could wait for­ever to get back the money it had given the Greeks.

The cred­i­tors and the EU were also un­der at­tack. Many Ro­ma­ni­ans were baf­fled by the EU's in­sis­tence that Greece re­mained in the Euro­zone. They also ex­pressed their dis­sat­is­fac­tion in re­gards to the fi­nan­cial man­age­ment of the EU.

Oth­ers de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion in Greece as “the ini­tial bat­tle with the cap­i­tal­ist beast”, and ex­pressed their com­pas­sion with the Greek peo­ple in their strug­gle with the cor­rupt po­lit­i­cal elite that was re­spon­si­ble for the fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties in the coun­try.

Over­all, the Ro­ma­nian so­cial me­dia users ex­pressed a neg­a­tive opin­ion re­gard­ing the de­ci­sions taken by Greek politi­cians and the cor­rup­tion in the coun­try, though some voiced sup­port for the Greeks and com­mended them for what they saw as “courage to chal­lenge the cap­i­tal­ist oli­garchs”.

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