After the timely arrest and extradition of Ratko Mladic, the notorious former Bosnian Serb Commander who was on the run for 16 years, Serbia is once again reviving its hopes for EU membership.
President Boris Tadic and his government is making a strong point to the European Union, with the arrest of the man who allegedly ordered the bloody killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys, among other crimes during the infamous Balkan wars of the early 1990s.
The genocide suspect is currently in UN custody at Hague, and his much-awaited court appearance is expected in the next few days. Considered a hero by a small faction of the Serbian population, Mladic has been placed in an isolation cell at the detention unit in Hague on Tuesday. A Serbian court had earlier rejected his appeal against extradition, after he was captured from a village north of Belgrade on Thursday.
Belgrade's pro-western leaders had long come under the hammer for not being able to close in on the former military commander for almost two decades. This was arguably the biggest obstacle for Serbia's bid for membership in the European Union.
In the year 2001, the former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was also handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Hague, after he was indicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
However, when the Nationalists came into power two years later, they suspended cooperation with ICTY, and to a large extent alienated the west. EU's subsequent reaction was suspension of the Pre-Accession talks with Serbia owing to its reluctance to cooperate with ICTY.
EU resumed talks only after Serbia's new coalition government, which came to power in 2007, started obliging ICTY. There were many arrests and extraditions of which the most significant was that of Radovan Karadzic, Mladic's former boss who is also on trial now. Now that Serbia has managed to put an end to the Mladic chapter as well, it has enough reasons to push for a membership in the EU.
Mladic's arrest is particularly significant for the ruling liberals, as they are facing elections in 2012. In arresting Mladic, the Serbian government risked losing the support of at least some of the Serbians who are reluctant to denounce him.
Although the nationalist protests have so far been lukewarm, nothing short of an EU candidate status will boost Tadic's chances in the elections next year. Hence, it is not surprising that the French President Nicholas Sarkozy called it a 'bold move' from his Serbian counterpart.
As for Serbia's leadership, it has become imperative to relentlessly push for the country's membership in the European Union.