Belgrade’s got some explaining to do

Belgrade’s got some explaining to do

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“We are not saying that the three war crimes indictees, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, are not in Serbia, but we cannot be 100 per cent sure that they are.”

That’s what Rasim Ljajic, the head of Serbia’s Council for Cooperation with The Hague Tribunal told reporters yesterday. Of course, Karadzic was captured that night right in Belgrade, where he has been practicing alternative medicine and even lecturing for years. The arrest seems to confirm what most observers had assumed all along, that Karadzic’s arrest was being held up not by the difficulty of capturing him but by the lack of political will to do so. It’s unclear whether handovers of Mladic and Hadzic will follow, but it’s going to be a lot harder for Serbian authorities to plead ignorance now.

Some are describing today’s developments as a triumph for the International Criminal Court, which is fair. But the bigger story is how effective a carrot the prospect of EU integration can be in the right circumstances. It was this carrot that largely swung the last Serbian elections (despite the outrage over Kosovo) in favor of the current pro-European government, making today’s arrest possible.

The EU badly has badly needed a victory for a while now and this is a big one.

Update: Then again, perhaps it’s all Barack Obama’s doing.