Netherlands may consider ratifying Serbian EU agreement
(THE HAGUE) - The Netherlands said Tuesday it would consider ratifying a pact seen as the first step for Serbia's EU membership depending on a report next week by the prosecutor of the UN war crimes court.
Stressing that Serbia's full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was essential for EU membership, the foreign ministry said a good report by prosecutor Serge Brammertz to EU foreign ministers could be decisive.
"If the chief prosecutor tells EU ministers next Monday that Serbia's cooperation has been good, the Netherlands may agree to ask our parliament for approval" to ratify the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAO) -- considered the first official step on the long road towards full membership in the European Union.
The EU last December unfroze implementation of the agreement but delayed its ratification by all 27 member states until Serbia proves its full cooperation with the tribunal investigating crimes during the 1990s Balkan wars.
"Ratification of the SAO by member states of the European Union is out of the question until the chief prosecutor confirms that Serbia is doing everything in its power to arrest the last two fugitives, particularly (Ratko) Mladic," the ministry statement said.
Brammertz said in Belgrade last month he was "cautiously optimistic" that Serbia was getting closer to arresting Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military leader wanted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
The tribunal is also looking for former Croatian Serb leader Goran Hadzic. Both men are believed to be in Serbia.
The Dutch ministry said Croatia's cooperation with the court will also be discussed at next week's meeting.
"The Netherlands will keep insisting that Croatia continues its search for documents wanted by the tribunal," it added.
The papers are believed to detail Zagreb's military operation "Storm" against Serb rebels that ended Croatia's 1991-1995 war.
Zagreb insists it has delivered all of the documents in its possession.