EU: Karadžić arrest important step

BELGRADE, BRUSSELS, THE HAGUE -- EU ministers have welcomed the arrest of Radovan Karadžić as an important stage in Serbia’s EU integration.

Bernard Kouchner, Javier Solana at today's meeting (FoNet)
Bernard Kouchner, Javier Solana at today's meeting (FoNet)

In a joint declaration from their meeting in Brussels, they said that the arrest was an important step in Serbia’s integration, and urged Belgrade to continue along that path.

“Those developments show the determination of the new government in Belgrade to contribute to peace and stability in the Balkan region. It is an important stage in Serbia and the EU’s convergence,” the statement underlines.

“The Council of Ministers encourages the government of Serbia to continue along that path. It points to the Council’s declaration of June 19/20, 2008, that stresses that Serbia can accelerate its progress along the path to EU integration, including receiving candidate status, as soon as the necessary conditions are met,” the text adds.

The Council also “encourages the new government to maintain positive relations with the EU and its member-states, and to develop a constructive attitude towards the EU’s efforts to contribute to peace and stability in the Balkan region”.

“The Council also reiterates its commitment to dialogue over liberalization of the visa regime with Serbia, and calls on the new government to focus on full application of the criteria set forth in the ‘road map’,” the declaration from today’s meeting concludes.

Solana expects positive Hague appraisal

Javier Solana is sure that Serge Brammertz will give a positive appraisal of Serbian cooperation with the Tribunal.

Asked by a journalist whether Radovan Karadžić’s arrest would enable application of the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), the EU common foreign and security policy chief replied that he was sure that, following talks with Hague chief prosecutor, that "he will say that cooperation is heading in the right direction”.

“I really hope that the cooperation that the Serbian government has shown will allow the prosecutor to say—I’m sure of this—that cooperation is heading in the right direction,” Solana said ahead of a meeting of EU ministers.

“We have to speak to the prosecutor. I’m almost certain that he will say that there is full cooperation,” stressed the EU high representative.

Asked whether there was any knowledge of Ratko Mladić’s whereabouts, he replied that “there are no other signs apart from the will that the Serbian government showed yesterday.”

In an earlier statement, Solana said that, “this is a good day for justice in the Balkans,” adding that the “new Serbian government has proven its firm devotion to European values.”

“The new Serbian government is displaying persistence in its work on the further construction of the new Serbia – a Serbia that will have quality relations with the EU,” the statement read.

The high representative said that he was “extremely satisfied” with Karadžić’s arrest, and stressed that “Karadžić will appear before the court where he will be given a fair trial, and where he will have to answer for many crimes.”

European Commissioner Olli Rehn said in Brussels that the arrest was a “milestone” in Serbia’s cooperation with the Tribunal, and showed that Serbia was “very serious” when it came to cooperation.

Karadžić’s arrest is a historic moment for international justice and reconciliation in the Balkans, as well as a milestone in cooperation between Belgrade and the Hague,” said the commissioner.

He stressed that the arrest showed that “Serbia is very serious and capable of cooperating with the Hague Tribunal, and of carrying out serious, competent operations.”

“The arrest shows that the new government is determined to turn its back on its nationalist past, and turn towards a European future, and also proves that the policy of setting conditions works,” Rehn stressed.

Asked whether Karadžić’s capture would allow application of the SAA, the commissioner replied that he hoped for “a debate [at the Council of Ministers] to discuss further steps concerning Serbia’s European future.”

“This should have an impact on relations between the EU and Serbia,” he underlined.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso echoed the views of his EU colleagues, stating that “it proves that the new Serbian government is determined to cooperate with the Hague Tribunal.”

“On behalf of the European Commission, I welcome the arrest of Radovan Karadžić. It is a positive development that will contribute to justice and long-term stability in the Western Balkans,” he said.

“It proves the determination of the new Serbian government to achieve full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. It is also very important for Serbia's European aspirations," Barroso underlined.

Speaking earlier today, Solana’s spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said that the EU was very pleased to hear the news.

“You can imagine the EU reaction. Everyone is happy, and we congratulate the Serbian government for taking this very important step. We wish to see Karadžić in court, where he will be given a fair trial and have the chance to defend himself and to answer for the crimes committed,” Gallach told B92.

“The Serbian government’s excellent operation will bring Serbia closer to European values, and to the new Serbia which is determined to follow the EU path. At today’s ministers’ meeting in Brussels, we will point out that this important step has been taken, and that it will make the entire region more stable and bring it closer to the EU,” she said.