News 04 Jul 07

UN War Crimes Court Urges Further EU Pressure On Serbia

Brussels, Belgrade _ The European Union must continue its pressure on Serbia to arrest the suspects still sought for war crimes during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, an official with the United Nations' war crimes court said Wednesday.

The EU has insisted Serbia's must turn over war crimes fugitives to the Netherlands-based UN war crimes court before the 27-strong bloc continues talks that could lead toward Serbia’s eventual membership.


"The EU conditionality on prospective member states should remain in place until it is no longer needed," Olga Kavran, a spokeswoman for chief UN war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte told Balkan Insight.

"There are obligations that ... states need to fulfill if they wish to aspire for EU membership."

On Tuesday, Del Ponte said in Brussels that top fugitive Ratko Mladic is hiding in Serbia. She insisted that the EU must continue its pressure on Belgrade to hand him over for trial.

“I know that Mladic is in Serbia and Serbian authorities know that Mladic is in Serbia,” Del Ponte said Tuesday during what was supposed to be a farewell visit to EU institutions in Brussels. She will now stay in her job after her mandate expires in September at the request of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb wartime commander, is suspected of masterminding the massacre of 8,000 civilians from the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.

The EU last year cancelled talks with Serbia over further integration because authorities failed to arrest Mladic. Although he remains at large, the EU last month decided to resume talks after a newly formed democratic government in Belgrade showed it intends to cooperate. Former fugitives Zdravko Tolimir and Vlastimir Djordjevic have been arrested in the last two months.

Del Ponte praised the EU’s policy of making cooperation with the war crimes tribunal a condition for accession to the bloc, saying that “90 percent of indictees in the Hague are behind bars thanks to conditionality.”

However, many analysts have suggested that the EU was ready to relax its pressure on Belgrade to arrest war crimes suspects in exchange for a settlement on an independence plan for Kosovo, Serbia's breakaway province.

Ethnic Albanians who make up about 90 percent of Kosovo's population of 2 million want independence, but Serbia is offering them a broad autonomy instead. The United States and other Western powers have backed a UN plan that envisions an internationally monitored independence for the province. Russia joins Serbia in opposing the plan.

“Mladic is a chip in the international game between the West, Russia and Serbia over Kosovo,” said Nebojsa Spaic of the Belgrade-based risk assessment firm Spaic & Farmer Group. “The EU is using Mladic to obtain Serbian concessions on Kosovo and we can expect a softer tone from Brussels in the future,” he said.

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