The foreign minister of Serbia-Montenegro appealed Monday to the European Union to stop pressuring Belgrade to hand over war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic, saying the demands could backfire following Slobodan Milosevic’s death in U.N. detention.
Vuk Draskovic said that nationalist anger was rising and that harsh treatment by Europe and the United States could make it harder for the government to control the situation.
He said that to counter the pressure from nationalists, “I expect, demand, beg” more international aid and immediate, unconditional admission into NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, which includes many former East bloc countries and is considered a stepping stone toward full NATO membership.
Draskovic told reporters that the situation in Serbia was “very complex and serious.”
Milosevic’s followers have blamed their leader’s death on ill-treatment by U.N. war crimes tribunal authorities. The controversy was fueled Monday when a Dutch toxicologist said he had found traces of an unprescribed drug in Milosevic’s blood earlier this year.
Milosevic died Saturday in his prison cell at the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands. He was being tried on charges of orchestrating a decade of conflict that killed 250,000 people and tore the Yugoslav federation apart.
EU wants Mladic handed over
“Those who have caused most evil have raised their heads again, expecting to come back (to power),” Draskovic warned. “Our friends in the EU and the United States seem not to hear that.”
The European Union has warned Belgrade that it would suspend ongoing cooperation talks if Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb army commander wanted on genocide charges, is not handed over by the end of March.
European Union officials in Brussels said Monday they had no intention of scrapping the deadline for Serbia to hand over Mladic or face possible isolation. EU spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy said there was “no change in our position in light of recent developments.”
Draskovic said “the position of our friends and those who wish to return Serbia into a catastrophe and isolation match in a funny way.”
“I believe the time is right for Europe, the international community, to bravely change their policies toward Serbia and help us,” he said.