The European Union has offered Serbia a deal over closer political ties and easier visa requirements after the Netherlands refused to sign a full pre-membership accord.
The Netherlands says it will not agree to a Stabilisation and Association Agreement – seen as the first stage in full EU membership – until Serbia hands over suspected war criminals to the UN tribunal in The Hague. Belgium also sided with the Netherlands.
In particular, the Netherlands wants to see the arrest of Ratko Mladic. Mladic is charged with masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which 7,000 men and boys under the protection of Dutch UN peacekeepers were murdered.
Verhagen denied that the Netherlands had given into EU pressure by agreeing to closer ties.
There is a clear difference with the SAA, Verhagen told news agency ANP. ‘As long as Serbia does not meet the conditions, it cannot reap the full benefits,’ he said.
Serbia elects a new president on February 3 in which ultra-nationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic takes on pro-Western incumbent Boris Tadic. EU foreign ministers are inviting Serbia to sign the new deal on 7 February.
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