Comments by EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn suggest that the European Union may be prepared to resume negotiations with Serbia over closer EU ties, even without Belgrade’s full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Human Rights Watch said today.

In a letter to Rehn, the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, and the German Presidency of the European Union, Human Rights Watch has asked them to ensure that the European Union maintains a principled and consistent approach towards Serbia and insists on full cooperation with the ICTY as a precondition for resuming negotiations on a Stabilization and Association Agreement, the first step toward EU membership.

“Without firm and consistent EU pressure on Serbia, there is a real danger that Ratko Mladic will never face justice,” said Lotte Leicht, EU advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The EU should not accept anything less than Serbia’s full cooperation with The Hague.”

Last May, the European Union broke off talks with Serbia over a Stabilization and Association Agreement, citing Serbia’s failure to hand over Bosnian wartime general Ratko Mladic, indicted for genocide by the ICTY. In November, the European Commission emphasized that full cooperation is a precondition for resuming the talks. In February, the International Court of Justice ruled that Serbia’s failure to transfer Ratko Mladic to the ICTY was a violation of the Genocide Convention, and ordered Serbia to cooperate fully with the ICTY.