The Commission’s deadline to Serbia for handing over suspected war criminal General Ratko Mladic to The Hague expired on 30 April 2006 with Mladic still at large. As a result, talks with Serbia are set to be stalled on 3 May 2006.
Mladic is charged with with the murder of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, as well as with genocide in the 3½-year-long siege of Sarajevo that resulted in the killing of more than 10,000 people. The EU has made his handing-over to the United Nations War Crime Court in The Hague a precondition for talks on a closer association of Serbia-Montenegro to the EU.
In a contribution for the Belgrade newspaper Politika, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn wrote: “If the problem is not solved before Wednesday [3 May 2006], the Commission will have to cancel the next round of talks, scheduled for 11 May 2006.” Before a decision is taken, Rehn now wants to talk to Court Prosecutor Carla del Ponte, who has repeatedly made claims that Mladic is hiding under the protection of parts of the Serbian Army. On 1 May 2006, her spokesman Anton Nikiforov said the prosecutor will comment on the issue only after meeting Rehn on 3 May.
Several of Mladic’s presumed helpers were arrested at the beginning of 2006, and ten days before the EU deadline ran out, there were reports that his arrest was close at hand. However, according to another article in the Politika, Serbian authorities have real difficulties finding Mladic, and a quick arrest seems to be unlikely now. Serbian authorities expect talks with the EU to be stalled for a month, the paper says.
Slowing down EU partnership talks would be strengthening the cause of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, who is holding a referendum on 21 May 2006, trying to gain support for the independence of the smaller of the two remaining republics of the former Yugoslavia.