Daniel Korski

A joyous day in the Balkans

The day started out looking bad for the Balkans, with the Serbian president boycotting a meeting with Barack Obama in Poland because the Kosovo president was attending. But things look rather better now. After a decade-long man-hunt, Serbian police arrested Ratko Mladic in northern Serbia. He was living under the name Milorad Komadic and had grown a beard like his former boss, Radovan Karadzic. A plane carrying Mladic is said to have left for The Hague, where he will soon be arraigned before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has rightly called the arrest a “historic moment” for the western Balkans. General Mladic is accused of orchestrating the methodical slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslims from the Bosnian “safe area” of Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War Two. Since Radovan Karadzic was apprehended, Mladic was one of the last senior wartime criminals at large. (Goran Hadžić, former president of the Republic of Serbian Krajina remains a fugitive).

With Mladic’s arrest, Serbia and the broader region can look forward rather than back. At his press conference announcing the arrest, President Tadic made clear he wants faster accession to the EU and that the allegations of organ-trafficking in Kosovo are taken more seriously by the West.

Tadic has taken steps to make Serbia face up to its past. Last year the Serbian president attended a ceremony in Srebrenica, in what was seen as a significant gesture. The year before, Serbia’s parliament passed a landmark resolution apologising for the Srebrenica massacre, saying that Belgrade should have done more to prevent the tragedy.

Many in the EU would gladly grant Tadic’s wishes, especially as Tomislav Nikolić’s Serb Radical Party looks set to win the forthcoming presidential election.

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