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Karadzic finally captured

Mark Mardell | 14:54 UK time, Tuesday, 22 July 2008

I am in The Hague, awaiting the arrival of that white-bearded practitioner of alternative medicine and accused war criminal, Radovan Karadzic. Radovan Karadzic in disguise

Would he be under arrest without the soft power and diplomacy of the European Union? And what does his arrest say about Serbia today?

Is it the lure of one day possibly joining the EU that has led Serbia to deliver up the man who is just a few notches off the top of the world's most wanted list?

Most diplomats in Brussels would have little doubt that their canny handling of the issue has led to this moment and that Serbia has made a further decisive turn towards the EU after this year's elections. Just before the Serbian elections the EU dangled a carrot in front of the Serbian people's noses: now Serbs will expect a nibble, if not to scoff the whole lot. The carrot was the signing of an agreement (the SAA) that would have direct and immediate trade benefits and start the long and laborious process of joining the EU. But it was made clear it couldn't come into effect until there was more co-operation on the delivery of those accused of war crimes. EU foreign ministers are deciding now if that time has come.

Some in Serbia think this helped swing the elections, giving the pro-Europeans the edge. They say it wasn't just the promise that was important, but gave the media something to talk and write about rather than the loss of Kosovo. The carrot, rather than the stick, became the headline.

Things would have been very different if the Radicals had won. But what really changed was forming a government without the previous prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, who has increasingly thrown in his lot with the nationalists. It amazed me when about three years ago I did an interview with the then foreign minister, Vuk Draskovic, who said that they wanted to arrest those accused of war crimes but the police and security forces would not co-operate. Perhaps I was naive, but it is certainly a bad thing in a democracy when the men with the guns don't take orders from the men who get the votes.

People are using the word "milestone" about today and I am pretty certain this is a breakthrough in terms of political will, rather than intelligence or police tactics. How do you see it?


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