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Letter to EU Foreign Ministers on Establishing Closer Ties with Serbia

Full cooperation with the ICTY should remain a necessary pre-condition for EU talks

To EU Foreign Affairs Ministers

Your Excellencies,

On Monday, June 14, the Foreign Affairs Council will once again consider establishing closer ties with Serbia during discussion of the ratification status of Serbia's Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA). We urge you to ensure that the European Union (EU) maintains a principled and consistent stance requiring full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), before accelerating Serbia's progress towards the EU. Full cooperation with the ICTY should remain a necessary pre-condition for the ratification of the SAA, as well as the start of any membership negotiations.

The ICTY prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, is due to present his bi-annual report to the Security Council on June 18 and is expected to comment on the status of Serbia's cooperation with the tribunal.

We have seen that the prospect of closer relations with the EU has been the key impetus for increased cooperation by Serbia with the ICTY. Firm pressure from the EU has been essential to securing the arrests of high-level fugitives, including Radovan Karadzic. EU pressure has also been a key factor in stimulating increased cooperation by Serbia with the ICTY in the area of investigations and transfer of documents and evidence requested. The possibility of EU membership was an important factor leading Serbia's parliament to pass a resolution condemning the crimes at Srebrenica and apologizing to the victim's families on March 31.  This was a welcome step, but more needs to be done. Though the Serbian resolution called for the arrest of Ratko Mladic, his arrest is unlikely to occur without continued pressure from the EU.

As such, the importance of preserving the EU's leverage - through a firm and credible conditionality policy - to ensure that the remaining fugitives, including Mladic, are arrested and brought to face justice before the ICTY cannot be overstated. The EU needs to be clear that no further steps will be taken with Serbia toward EU membership unless full cooperation with the ICTY is attained, including the transfer of Mladic to The Hague.

The passage of nearly fifteen years since the massacre of men and boys at Srebrenica has not quelled the victims' desire for justice.  The fall of Srebrenica is for many emblematic of the atrocities committed during the Balkans wars. If those alleged to be most responsible for that crime are not held to account, many will feel justice has not been served.  Arresting Mladic would also bring Serbia into compliance with the International Court of Justice's order to cooperate fully with the ICTY and signal its willingness to adhere fully to the values of the European Union.

The EU recently reaffirmed its commitment to advancing the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern;[1] it should now demonstrate that commitment by insisting that Serbia fulfill its obligation to arrest outstanding ICTY fugitives.


Lotte Leicht, EU director
Richard Dicker, International Justice Program director                                         


Catherine Ashton, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy
Stefan Fühle, Commissioner for Enlargement
Political and Security Committee Ambassadors
Representatives to the Working Party on the Western Balkans (COWEB)
Vincent Degert, Head of the EU delegation in Serbia

[1] Council conclusions on The Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 3016th Competitiveness Council Meeting, Brussels, May 25, 2010

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