Upon the capture of Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladi?, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said: “it's a very courageous decision of the Serbian president. It is a step toward integration of Serbia into the European Union (EU) someday soon.”
Mladi?’s arrest was a pre-condition to Serbia’s EU integration because of way he embarrassed and defied European authorities.
In April 1993, the United Nations (UN) – with Europe’s backing – declared the besieged Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica as a “safe area.”
However, since the beginning, Mladi?’s forces had brazenly defied UN proclamations. First, they refused to demilitarize the areas surrounding Srebrenica. Second, they used their military presence to severely limit supplies going into Srebrenica. At one point, even UN personnel in Srebrenica were starving for supplies. Eventually, a few Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) died of starvation.
On July 6, 1995, Mladi? began to invade Srebrenica. The outmanned Dutch soldiers, under the UN flag, were quickly defeated , as were the poorly armed Bosniak soldiers. NATO air strikes were also abandoned after the Serbian army threatened to kill Dutch troops and French hostages.
By July 11, Mladi? had captured the enclave. Starting on July 13, mass executions were carried out.
At each step of the way, Mladi? escalated his level of defiance against the European authorities until he carried out the ultimate violence of genocide. He also mocked United Nations peacekeepers from the Netherlands and forced the commander of Dutch forces to drink a toast with him celebrating the fall of the city, accoridng to NYTimes.
From the fall of the Roman Empire to the end of WWII, Europe was almost constantly torn by bloodshed. After WWII, Europeans turned to integration to achieve peace. The EU, and its predecessor institutions, were the tools.
What happened in Srebrenica, however, was a direct violation of the EU’s principle of peace and integration. It was also an embarrassment to the Netherlands and the European community.
Without a resolution to the Mladi? genocide episode, it was simply unfeasible to permit Serbia to join the European Union.