Dutch FM Suggests Softer Tone Towards Serbia

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has suggested a softening in the Dutch position regarding Serbia’s cooperation with the UN War Crimes Tribunal.

Speaking at a debate on EU enlargement in the Dutch parliament, Verhagen said Serbia’s cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, showed that: “Upward lines can be noticed… It is not the maximum, but there is progress.”

The Netherlands have so far stood firm on their position that Serbia’s progress towards EU accession be linked to its cooperation with the Tribunal. The country has vetoed the unblocking of a trade agreement with the bloc until Serbia shows greater commitment towards fulfilling its ICTY obligations.

Verhagen said the Netherlands will base its position on a report the ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz is due to make to the UN Security Council on 3 December.

Brammertz spent two days in Serbia last week meeting Serbian officials and gathering information for his upcoming report on the country’s cooperation to the UN Security Council.

“If Brammertz estimates that the Belgrade authorities are doing all they can to find, arrest and extradite the defendant Hague fugitives Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, Netherlands will not oppose Serbia’s further approach towards European Union, primarily in trade relations, and the abolition of visa regime,” the Beta news agency quoted the Dutch minister as saying.

Local media reported that Brammertz was pleased with the country’s cooperation so far, praising the efficiency of the authorities, but emphasising that the two indictees must be handed over.

In an interview for the European Parliament’s official website, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic announced that Serbia will submit its EU candidacy request by the end of the year, with the aim of joining the EU in five to seven years.

Ferhagen reiterated that Serbia should not yet submit its candidacy, although some EU member states encourage Serbia to do just that.

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