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Serbia After the Arrest of Ratko Mladic

Serbia After the Arrest of Ratko Mladic

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Serbia, which has long-sought membership in the European Union, is one step closer to that reality after the arrest of Ratko Mladic. The search for Mr. Mladic, which had spanned more than a decade, had been one of the major stumbling blocks for Serbia’s membership in the E.U.
Serbia, which has long-sought membership in the European Union, is one step closer to that reality after the arrest of Ratko Mladic. The search for Mr. Mladic, which had spanned more than a decade, had been one of the major stumbling blocks for Serbia’s membership in the E.U.

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Published by: Journal of Foreign Relations on May 31, 2011
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Serbia After the Arrest of Ratko Mladic
(Photo Courtesy of The San Francisco Examiner)Serbia, which has long-sought membership in theEuropean Union, is one step closer to that reality afterthe arrest of Ratko Mladic. The search for Mr. Mladic,which had spanned more than a decade, had been oneof the major stumbling blocks for Serbia’smembership in the E.U.With the arrest of Mladic, Serbia is attempting to jump start negotiations that have been stalled for a number of years and establish a date when E.U. accession talks can begin in earnest.Serbian President Boris Tadic saidfollowing Ratko Mladic’s arrest , “The arrest is goodnews for Serbia, for the stability of the region and gives new impetus to Serbia’s EUaccession process…His arrest is convincing proof of Serbia’s efforts and cooperationwith the [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia].”“I believe that this operation has proved that the services of the Republic of Serbiahave made this country safe and have secured the rule of law, and that our work onthe search for war crime suspects will increase Serbia’s moral credibility in theinternational arena and raise all security capacities to a higher level. The greatest partof the work was done by the BIA,”added President Tadic.The Netherlands had been particularly reluctant of approving accession talks given itsfailure to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Dutch peacekeepers stood idly bywhile military forces, under the orders of Gen. Ratko Mladic, stormed Srebrenica andslaughtered 8,000 Bosnians, mainly men and boys. Ratko Mladicis also implicated inordering the Siege of Sarajevo, which lasted from 1992 to 1996, during which anestimated 10,000 people were killed.The Netherlands had previously insisted that all 27 E.U. member-states had to agree toaccession talks on the grounds that Belgrade was fully cooperating with investigationson the whereabouts of Mr. Mladic and others associated with the atrocities committedduring the Bosnian War.
 
Serbia originally applied for E.U. membership in 2009. Even without the capture of Mladic, E.U. officials had been moving ahead with accession talks with Serbia. OnDecember 19, 2009 the visa requirement for Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia wasdropped to allow Serbs to travel freely in the Schengen area.President Boris Tadic of Serbiasaid at the time that it represented“a practical andclear step towards European integration.”Kosovoans are still denied visa-free travel because Kosovo’s independence from Serbiais not recognized by all 27 member-states of the E.U.However positive the step of arresting Ratko Mladic is in the eyes of many E.U.member-states some have suggested that Goran Hadzic must also be turned over forprosecution. Mr. Hadzic was indicted by the ICTY for crimes committed during theBosnian war. He is the last remaining fugitive still in hiding.Mr. Mladic’s health is likely to delay his extradition to The Hague to stand trial for atleast a few days. Milos Saljic, Ratko Mladic’s lawyer, filed an appeal attempting to block Mr. Mladic’s extradition on the grounds that he is mentally and physically unfitto stand trial.The appeal is likely to be dismissed by the three-judge panel and this would quickly be followed by Mr. Mladic being transferred to The Hague. “I believe the trial will notgo ahead, because I do not believe Mladic will see the start of that process in front of the Hague Tribunal,”said Milos Saljic , Mladic’s lawyer.Mladic’s arrest potentially offers the Balkan region a chance at reconciliation. Similarto France and Germany following the Second World War, European integration hadthe benefit of bringing together those two historic enemies for the sake of economicgrowth. European integration eventually brought into the fold Ireland, Britain andItaly and worked to bury long-held animosities. With the arrest of Mladic, this couldoffer the Balkans the clearest path at regional reconciliation.“I think crime cannot stay unpunished … especially the crimes against humanity, thecrimes of genocide…I think it’s very important regarding the reconciliation in theBalkans in general,”said Bosnian Foreign Minister Sven Alkalaj , while attending ameeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Indonesia.Despite the arrest of Mladic, Serbia’s membership in the E.U. faces a number of other
 
obstacles. Its judiciary is still criticized as less than fully functioning and the issue of Kosovo remains a major stumbling block.Serbia vehemently opposed Kosovo independence in 2008. The E.U. recently brokeredSerbian and Kosovoan talks that dealt with a whole host of issues including the mostimportant issue of Kosovoan sovereignty. While no agreement has been reached thetalks are ongoing.One important step that could potentially guarantee Serbia’s E.U. membership bidwould be for Serbia to recognize independence for Kosovo. This would also have theaffect of lessening tensions with many E.U. member-states and Russia. At the time thatKosovo announced its independence from Serbia, Russia was very vocal in itsopposition to any European states recognizing Kosovo as an independent state.At the time that Kosovo’s independence was brought before the U.N. Security CouncilRussia blocked their efforts and has since continued to lobby against its independence.During a recent visit to Serbia by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin he had this tosayregarding Serbia’s bid to join the E.U. and its relations to Russia , “We willcarefully watch and work jointly that European integration doesn’t harm relations between Russia and Serbia.”Another issue that might block Serbian membership in the E.U. has to deal with anti-enlargement sentiments that run throughout the Eurozone countries. With financialproblems facing Greece and Portugal, E.U. member-states are in no mood topotentially have to bail out another member-state down the road. If these fears can beovercome then Serbia faces an improved chance at gaining membership. Even as far back as 2005, before the global economic crises hit and the E.U. faced its largestidentity crises to date, E.U. officials expressed confidence that Serbia would eventually be admitted.During a 2005 Brussels E.U. summit, the former European Commissioner for Economicand Financial Affairs, Olli Ilmari Rehn,told former Serbian Prime Minister VojislavKostunica , “We are concerned about the worries of our citizens and therefore we haveto be cautious as regards taking any new commitments in the field of enlargement, butat the same time it is equally important to keep our existing commitments.”If the arrest of Ratko Mladic offers emotional closure to the families of the thousandsof his victims is too soon to tell. Undoubtedly, his arrest will leave more questions

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