Dutch block EU accord on Serbia trade benefits

 

The European Union failed to agree today to extend new trade benefits to Serbia despite a positive report from the chief UN war crimes prosecutor on Belgrade's cooperation, officials said.

The Netherlands prevented the extention of new trade benefits to Serbia despite a positive report from the chief UN war crimes prosecutor on Belgrade's co-operation.

The Dutch continued to insist Serbia arrest former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, the top remaining war crimes indictee at large, following the July capture of Bosnian Serb ex-president Radovan Karadzic, now on trial in The Hague.

However, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was almost certain that the 27 EU foreign ministers would agree at their next meeting in October to implement an interim agreement on closer ties, including trade.

"The (French EU) presidency won't hide that there was a very, very big majority for unfreezing the interim agreement ... but there wasn't unanimity, and we are going to keep working to unfreeze it," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who chaired the talks, told a news conference.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz had briefed the ministers "about the significantly intensified efforts of the Serbian government in the field of ... cooperation" with the war crimes tribunal.

However, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told reporters: "I cannot conclude from what Mr Brammertz said that we can talk about full co-operation."

The issue is particularly sensitive for the Netherlands because Mladic is charged with genocide over the massacre of some 7,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995, which Dutch UN peacekeepers stationed in the town were unable to prevent.

Reuters