EU puts off Serbia trade decision

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn urged the bloc last week to allow Serbia improved trading conditions following the arrest of the wartime Bosnian Serb leader.

EU puts off Serbia trade decision
The European Union postponed a decision again on Tuesday on whether to unfreeze trade benefits for EU hopeful Serbia following the arrest last week of key war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, diplomats said.

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn urged the bloc last week to allow Serbia improved trading conditions following the arrest of the wartime Bosnian Serb leader.

But diplomats said ambassadors from the 27 EU states agreed to wait for Karadzic's transfer to the Hague tribunal and for U.N. war crimes prosecutor Serge Brammertz to report on whether Serbia was fully cooperating with the tribunal -- the condition for unblocking Belgrade's EU path.

An EU diplomat said envoys had agreed on these conditions last week and there had been no new element by the time of their meeting on Tuesday.

"Both are still lacking," he said after the ambassadors' last meeting before a month-long summer break.

Asked whether this meant the decision was postponed until September at the earliest, the diplomat said: "You could put it like that. It's postponed until we have those two elements."

EU foreign ministers last week called the arrest a milestone on Serbia's road to joining the EU, but several stressed that Karadzic's wartime military commander, Ratko Mladic, also wanted for genocide, was still at large and said Belgrade must go further to reap full benefits.

Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Rob Dekker said the Netherlands was very happy with the arrest of Karadzic and appreciated the cooperation of the Serbian government.

"But we are still waiting for Radovan Karadzic's transfer to the Hague, the arrest of Mladic and Serbia still has to set up a witness protection programme," he said. "We are also waiting for Mr. Brammertz's position on Serbia's cooperation."

Karadzic and Mladic were indicted for genocide over the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which some 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim males were murdered and bulldozed into mass graves.

The EU signed a long-delayed Stabilisation and Association (SAA) pact with Serbia in April but vowed not to ratify it or unlock its trade benefits until all member states agreed that Belgrade was complying fully with the Hague tribunal.

Reuters
Last Mod: 29 Temmuz 2008, 17:19
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