DUTCH DEMAND SERBIA TO DELIVER TOP WAR CRIMINALS
The Netherlands will not sign off on a deal paving the way for Serbia to join the European Union until Belgrade turns over war crimes fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Dutch foreign minister said Wednesday.
"If Serbia really wants a European future, they must also cooperate with the handing over of one of the persons responsible for the only genocide in the European continent after the second World War" - Maxime Verhagen, Foreign Minister of Netherlands
Maxime Verhagen (photo on the left) was meeting with his Slovenian counterpart Dimitrij Rupel of Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency
Rupel wants Serbia to sign the preliminary pact later this month, but the Netherlands opposes the move, saying Belgrade can only take the next step toward full EU membership after it has arrested Mladic and handed him to the U.N.'s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
"If Serbia really wants a European future, they must also cooperate with the handing over of one of the persons responsible for the only genocide in the European continent after the second World War," Verhagen told reporters in a hotel on the outskirts of The Hague.
He was referring to Ratko Mladic's military oversight of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniaks at Srebrenica, Bosnia, which the International Criminal Tribunal ruled was a genocide.
The admission of new EU members must be unanimous, giving the Netherlands the power to block Serbia's advancement. Belgium has supported the Dutch position.
Earlier Wednesday, Rupel visited the war crimes tribunal, where new chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz told him the court's view on Serbian cooperation was the same as Verhagen's.
The EU commissioner in charge of the bloc's expansion, Olli Rehn, has also said that the signing of the preliminary deal - called a Stabilization and Association Agreement - depends on whether Serbia fully cooperates with the U.N. war crimes court.
At issue has been whether Serbia's assertion it is doing all it can to track down and arrest Mladic and the other fugitives would be seen as full cooperation.
Verhagen said that, as things stand, it would not be.
"My signature is linked to the full cooperation with the tribunal in The Hague and the best proof that there is full cooperation is that they deliver Mladic to The Hague," he said.
But "we don't ask the impossible ... from Serbia," he said. "We don't ask them to deliver what they can't deliver.
Ratko Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic are the top two of four suspects sought by the tribunal. War crimes prosecutors have lost track of Karadzic, who is the top political leader charged with genocide at Srebrenica, but they are sure Mladic remains in Serbia.
Serbia has said repeatedly it is doing all it can to arrest the fugitives and is working with tribunal investigators to track them down.
Brammertz, who replaced Carla Del Ponte at the start of January, issued a statement Wednesday saying that having the remaining fugitives arrested "remains an absolute priority."