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Living together - Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe [Report of the Group of Eminent Persons of the Council of Europe] PDF DOWNLOAD >>

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>> The Economist


KARADZIC CAUGHT

The Economist - July 25, 2008 His arrest shows how much good the EU can do if it stays open to new members The disguise was striking. It was hard to believe that behind the wire-framed spectacles and bushy grey beard of an apparent practitioner of alternative medicine in a quiet corner of Belgrade was Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serbs’ notorious wartime leader. No wonder his capture and probable extradition to appear before The Hague war-crimes tribunal on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity have been greeted with such elation around the world. This is not quite the end of the Balkan tragedy precipitated by the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic, is still at large, as is one other big fish wanted by The Hague. Bosnia continues to be troubled by internal divisions, with its Serb entity still threatening to declare unilateral independence. Serbia itself has come no closer to accepting the independence of Kosovo, which it sees as a renegade southern province. Yet the arrest of Mr Karadzic, which may soon be followed by that of Mr Mladic, offers a form of closure to the people of this long-suffering region. It is also a triumph for the concept and value of international justice that, even after 13 years on the run, such an important suspect can be reached by the courts. It is also, in a quiet way, a success for the European Union. The western Balkan countries, and especially Serbia, have presented some tricky challenges for the EU, which responded clumsily to the outbreak of war in the 1990s. With other countries of central and eastern Europe, the EU’s successful tactic was to hold out the prospect of membership as an incentive to induce democratic and liberal reforms. But the atavistic nationalist forces that are so prevalent across the western Balkans have often proved impervious to this treatment. And the decision by most EU countries to join the United States in recognising Kosovo’s independence last February threatened to make it even harder for the EU to deal with Serbia. In the event, the EU (helped by the pro-European lobby in Serbia) has handled this problem brilliantly. The last-minute offer of a stabilisation and association agreement, normally a prelude to membership talks, encouraged Serbian voters to back pro-European parties in the general election in May. President Boris Tadic’s Democrats then managed to form a broadly pro-European coalition government, ousting the nationalist Vojislav Kostunica as prime minister. It is no coincidence that the capture of Mr Karadzic came only two weeks after this new government took office, and less than a week after a new head of the Serbian security service was appointed to replace Mr Kostunica’s man (see article). But this success for the EU’s “soft power” highlights another problem: that the union is suffering a bad case of enlargement fatigue. This week Romania and, especially, Bulgaria were chastised by Brussels for failing to curb corruption, confirming the view of many that these two Balkan countries were let into the club too early (see article). The leaders of France and Germany have recently gone out of their way to insist that there can be no more EU enlargement unless the Lisbon treaty is ratified, which remains highly uncertain. The new French constitution, approved this week, retains a provision for referendums in France for any new country that aspires to join the EU (though this can be overridden). Yet the alternative to EU membership for countries like Serbia, Bosnia and, ultimately, Kosovo, is not a tidy Swiss-style association. It is the prospect of joining the EU that helps to keep the western Balkan countries at peace. If they are blocked, some might easily relapse into a nationalist fever that could even reignite conflict. For its own good, as much as for the Balkans, the EU must keep its doors open.





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