The European Union has welcomed the arrest of wartime Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, describing it as an “important step” on the way to EU membership for Serbia.
“The European Union welcomes the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes” by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the EU's French presidency said in a statement.
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“This development illustrates the commitment of the new Belgrade government to contribute to peace and stability in the Balkans region. It marks an important step on the way to Serbia's drawing nearer to the European Union.”
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso reacted in similar terms, saying: “On behalf of the European Commission, I welcome the news of the arrest of Radovan Karadzic.
“This is a very positive development that will contribute to bringing justice and lasting reconciliation in the Western Balkans.
“It proves the determination of the new Serbian government to achieve full cooperation with the ICTY. It is also very important for Serbia's European aspirations.”
'Full cooperation with tribunal'
In April, Serbia signed an accord for stabilization and association with the EU, the first step toward long-term integration into the European bloc, but the text has not yet gone into effect pending Belgrade's “full cooperation” with the ICTY.
Official status as candidate for EU entry is the last stage before the formal opening of negotiations to join the bloc of 27 countries.
The EU insisted that this full cooperation would only be shown by the arrest of former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic, who also stands accused of genocide.
The office of Serbian President Boris Tadic said its security forces captured Karadzic, and this was later confirmed by the ICTY in The Hague.
But the Serbian presidency and war crimes prosecutors refused to elaborate on the brief statement, which did not disclose any further information about the time and place of Karadzic's arrest.
However an unnamed war crimes official said the 63-year-old had offered “no resistance” when he was arrested on Serbian territory, and appeared to have been in a “depressive mood.”
His capture comes two weeks after Serbia got a new pro-European Union membership government dominated by Tadic's pro-Western Democratic Party, with the support of the reformed Socialists of late president Slobodan Milosevic.