Opinion: Mladic arrest opens new chapter for the Balkans | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.05.2011
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Opinion: Mladic arrest opens new chapter for the Balkans

Suspected war criminal Ratko Mladic has been arrested in Serbia. Verica Spasovska, head of Deutsche Welle's Central and South-eastern Europe Department, says this could either help or hurt President Boric Tadic.


It is a good day for justice and the beginning of a new chapter in the story of the Balkans. Sixteen years after the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ratko Mladic, one of the key figures involved in the wartime atrocities against Bosnian Muslims and Croats has finally been caught. It took a long time, but for the relatives of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre, these 16 years are a mere blink of an eye.

The trauma of Srebrenica, where more than 8,000 men were murdered, runs deep. General Ratko Mladic is accused of these crimes and the three-and-a-half year long siege of Sarajevo. With his capture and the legal process to determine his guilt that will now begin, victims' relatives can finally feel satisfaction.

What are the reasons why the alleged war criminal was captured after so many years in hiding? Unofficially, it has long been common knowledge that the Serbian authorities knew of his whereabouts. The word from Sarajevo is that the government in Belgrade decided to take him into custody because the pressure from Brussels was growing ever stronger. Indeed, cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is an important condition for Serbia's EU accession.

Tadic's strategy

President Boris Tadic has even called for speedy accession to the EU in return for Mladic's capture. His party has dropped dramatically in approval ratings and must worry about losing power when parliamentary elections are held early next year. With EU accession now within reach, Tadic hopes to score political points at home.

Verica Spasovska

Deutsche Welle's Verica Spasovska

But at the same time he is taking a serious risk: After the arrest of Radovan Karadzic in 2008, there was massive uproar in Serbia. This time Tadic is hoping that the prospect of EU membership will calm the situation.

Tadic urgently needs this boost, because not long ago more than half of Serbians said they would oppose extraditing Mladic. In their eyes he is a national hero, not a war criminal. The trial against him could now help to end the last dark chapter in the history of Serbia and its neighbors. The power of myths can be broken and the truth can come to light. And that is why this day is a good day for Serbia and its neighbors. The international justice system can now prove again that there will be no escape for war criminals, now matter how long it takes.

Author: Verica Spasovska / acb
Editor: Susan Houlton

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