The Netherlands on Tuesday agreed to sign a treaty paving the way for Serbia to join the EU on the condition it does not come into effect until Belgrade cooperates fully with the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal in The Hague.
Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen has insisted that Serbia should not benefit from the advantages of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement until ‘Mladic is on the plane to The Hague’.
The minister was referring to Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb leader held responsible for the massacre of 7,000 men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. The enclave was under Dutch protection at the time.
The Netherlands and Belgium held up the signing of the treaty, seen as a first step to full EU membership, because Serbia is dragging its feet on extraditing suspected war criminals.
In a compromise presented at the weekend, Holland and Belgium said they would sign the treaty only if it did not come into effect until Serbia cooperates with the UN tribunal.
Initially Slovenia, which is currently EU president, was not in favour of the compromise, saying it was ‘complicated’.
Verhagen and his Belgian colleague were under considerable pressure to sign the treaty because many EU states see it as a show of support for pro-EU moderates in Serbia’s May 11 elections.
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