Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Serbia, Mladic, and the EU

The European Union on Monday decided to move forward with Serbia's application for membership. The sole hold-out on this issue had been the Netherlands, which insisted that Serbia must first deliver the two most famous remaining fugitives from the wars in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s: Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

It is generally assumed, and the Serbian government does not deny, that Mladic is in hiding within Serbia, and Hadzic probably is as well. Both fugitives are wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Mladic in particular for his participation in the genocide in Srebrenica, and Hadzic for the ethnic cleansing of Croats from the Krajina Serb republic in Croatia.

The Netherlands has a particular interest in Mladic, because Dutch UN soldiers were stationed at Srebrenica when Mladic's troops overran the enclave in 1995. The problem with insisting on Serbia's delivery of Mladic and Hadzic before even considering Serbia's membership application is twofold. First, in recent years Serbia seems to have been genuinely trying to apprehend Mladic in particular. (As the New York Times pointed out earlier this week, Serbia had earlier been less than cooperative on this issue, but this has changed more recently.) Second, there is another pending issue on which the EU would like Serbia's cooperation: the status of Kosovo.

The EU is insisting that Mladic and Hadzic will still need to be delivered to the Hague before any substantive accession negotiations take place, but some of the political leaders quoted in the New York Times article no longer seem to consider this a key prerequisite. It will be interesting to see whether the Netherlands will attempt to veto further progress, if the Commission offers a positive opinion on the membership application before the fugitives having been apprehended.

Meanwhile, the ICTY is busy with the prosecution of several other indictees, including, most notably, Radovan Karadzic, who was finally apprehended in Serbia in 2008. At the time, most people thought a Mladic arrest would soon follow, but so far that has not happened. The ongoing ICTY trial hearings can be followed live on the internet at www.icty.org

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