Mladic arrest will boost Serbia's EU bid: Merkel

26th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday welcomed the arrest of former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic saying it would help Serbia on its path toward EU membership.

"The arrest of Ratko Mladic is good news, not only for Bosnia-Hercegovina, but also for Serbia, the western Balkans, and so for the whole of Europe," Merkel said in a statement issued in Berlin.

"This is at once the best basis for the region achieving reconciliation and a future in Europe," she added, referring to the European Union.

The chancellor is currently attending a G8 summit in France.

Her foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, had earlier hailed Mladic's arrest and underlined Serbia's "clear prospect" of EU membership.

He called Serbia's decision to take Mladic into custody "very good news for justice in Europe", noting that it fulfilled a long-term demand of the European Union and the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

"Coming to terms with the injustice of the Balkan wars is a crucial requirement for reconciliation in the region," Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin.

"The arrest of Mladic helps lay the foundation for a peaceful future for the entire Balkan region."

On the issue of Serbia's bid to join the EU, Westerwelle said the country had "clear European prospects" but that good relations with "all its neighbours" remained a condition for it one day joining the bloc.

Serbia has refused to recognise the unilateral declaration of independence in 2008 of its former province Kosovo.

Serbian President Boris Tadic announced Mladic's arrest Thursday, ending his nearly 16 years on the run from war crime charges during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict, including genocide for allegedly masterminding Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

Belgrade applied for EU membership in late 2009 and hopes to be granted the status of a candidate by December.

The EU has underscored Belgrade's co-operation with The Hague-based ICTY as one of the main conditions for Serbia's entry into the bloc.

© 2011 AFP

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