EU calls off membership talks with Serbia after Mladic handover deadline passes

[JURIST] The European Union [official website] on Wednesday called off its talks with Serbia [JURIST news archive] over the country's possible accession [EU materials] into the EU over Serbia's failure to arrest and turn over war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic [ICTY case backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn [official website] had set a Sunday deadline for Mladic's arrest, but that deadline passed [JURIST report] without the former general being taken into custody. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has said that Mladic's support network has been broken and called for Mladic's surrender to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website]. After consulting with ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte, Rehn said Wednesday that the European Commission has called off negotiations on the Stabilization and Association Agreement and will resume talks when "Serbia accedes full co-operation."

Mladic has been indicted [text] by the ICTY on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes stemming from the execution of over 7,000 Muslim prisoners and the shelling and sniping of innocent civilians during the siege of Sarajevo. Serbian officials have been accused of protecting Mladic [JURIST report] and Serbia told the ICTY and EU that Mladic would be delivered to the ICTY by the end of April [JURIST report]. BBC News has more.

3:18 PM ET - Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, also the country's chief negotiatior with the EU, resigned [press release] Wednesday over the government's failure to arrest Mladic as promised. In his resignation letter, Labus wrote that "The European Union suspended stabilisation talks because your government, contrary to your promise, did not secure the political conditions for the continuation of talks.... As deputy prime minister and head of the negotiating team for EU accession I want no part in such politics." In a statement [text] Wednesday, the prime minister said:

Citizens of Serbia should know that the government has done absolutely everything in its power to finally bring Ratko Mladic before the Hague Tribunal. It has been established who participated in the wider group and in the central core of accomplices hiding Ratko Mladic. The court has decided that several of the closest accomplices be taken into custody for a period of few months. Judging by this, since the entire network of accomplices has been discovered, Ratko Mladic is now hiding completely on his own. Therefore it is a question of technical nature to discover the place where Ratko Mladic is hiding now.

It would be best for everyone if Mladic followed the example of other officers and voluntarily went to The Hague. It has never occurred in our history that the entire country and nation suffers because of one officer. To the contrary, it has always been the case that all our officers, regardless to which ideology or time they belonged, put the interests of their nation and country above all. Ratko Mladic is doing great harm to our state and national interests by hiding.
Reuters has more.


 

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