"Arrest of Mladic would help Serbian integration with the EU"

Wed 22 Feb 2006

Hannes Swoboda and Jan Marinus Wiersma, vice-presidents of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, on 22 February declared that "the arrest of the Bosnian Serb General Mladic would be an important step towards the further integration of Serbia and Montenegro with the EU."

The Socialist MEPs were speaking after two days of talks in Montenegro and Serbia. Their visit took place in the framework of a series of visits to the region after the presentation of a Socialist Group position paper on "The European Future of the Western Balkans" at the end of last year. In Montenegro Mr. Swoboda met with leading politicians including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miodrag Vlahovic. In Belgrade Mr. Wiersma and Mr. Swoboda together met with the Serbian President Boris Tadic, the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus and members of parliament form the Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party of Serbia. Both parties were only recently admitted as full member parties of the Socialist International.

In their talks, the Socialist MEP's insisted that the Serbian authorities act urgently to arrest General Mladic so that a Stability and Association Agreement between the EU and Serbia and Montenegro can be concluded as a first step towards future EU membership. Full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is a pre-condition for the continuation of these negotiations. All partners in the discussions showed understanding for this position and agreed that an early arrest of General Mladic would help Serbia and Montenegro on its way to European integration. "Just as it was in the case of Croatia with General Gotovina last year, the fate of one man (Mladic) should not block the European future of a whole country (Serbia and Montenegro)" said Mr. Swoboda.

The Socialist Group delegation expressed its support for the efforts of the European Commission and the Venice Commission to ensure that the referendum on possible independence of Montenegro be fair and representative of the wishes of the people. In case of a vote in favour of Montenegrin independence, support must be given to both countries to adapt to the realities of two new independent states.

With regard to the situation in Kosovo all Serbian leaders stressed that it was a matter of the greatest sensitivity and that any 'solution' imposed from outside of Serbia would be difficult for any Serbian government to accept. The implementation of clear workable measures to protect the Serbian and other minorities must be an integral part of a negotiated solution for Kosovo.

"This visit once again made clear that some of the most serious problems in the Western Balkans can only be solved within a perspective of further integration with the EU", said Mr. Wiersma. "This is true for Kosovo, but also for the future development of Serbia."

Source: PES Group