The Netherlands will continue to refuse to sign an EU trade pact with Serbia as long as the country refuses to hand over suspected war criminals to The Hague tribunal, foreign minister Maxime Verhagen confirmed on Monday.
EU foreign ministers are due to discuss the stalemate today. Only Belgium supports the Dutch position, news agency ANP reported. Other countries want to sign the deal to send a positive signal to Belgrade and its pro-western president Boris Tadic. “The Netherlands does support a European future for Serbia,” Verhagen told reporters. “But then Serbia must adopt European standards and values. And that means, hand over war crimes suspects for trial.” In particular, the Netherlands wants to see the arrest of Ratko Mladic. Mladic is charged with masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which 7,000 men and boys under the protection of Dutch UN peacekeepers were murdered.
On Friday evening, prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende told Bloomberg tv he did not believe the Dutch snub would strengthen an anti-EU candidate’s position in the forthcombing Serbian presidential elections. “The essential issue is that a state must not be willing to protect war criminals,” said Balkenende at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “It is up to Serbia,” Balkenende was reported as saying. (dutchnews)