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Mladic Capture: A Victory For European Soft Power

The arrest of war criminal Ratko Mladic demonstrates how the EU can be a force for stability, especially when it holds out the possibility of membership.

Mladic was wanted for 15 years on war crimes charges. (Steffan42)
Mladic was wanted for 15 years on war crimes charges. (Steffan42)
Clemens Wergin

BERLIN - The arrest of Serbian general Ratko Mladic ends the darkest chapter in the history of post-reunification Europe. The Yugoslav Wars, which reached their peak with the Srebrenica massacres and the four-year siege of Sarajevo, proved just how destructive national ideologies in Europe can be. But the wars also bear witness to the failure of European foreign policy—the feuding continent of the 1990s was incapable of resolving the conflict. It required the leadership of a world power—the United States—and the Dayton Agreement in 1995 to bring an end to more than three years of war and killing.

One wishes that the architect of the agreement, recently deceased U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, could have lived to see the moment when the last of the three major criminal Serbian warmongers was finally captured and turned over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Along with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic, the president of the Republic of Srpska, Mladic was part of a bloodthirsty trio whose Greater Serbian ideology turned the Balkans into the nightmare of Europe, a showcase for genocide, torture, expulsion and mass rape.

That Mladic, the last of the three to be captured, is finally in custody speaks well for the perseverance of the international community. But it's also a success story for Europe, which after its mistakes during the Balkan wars was later all the more persistent about making EU membership for Serbia and other post-Yugoslav states contingent on the capture and turning over of war criminals. Of the 25 indicted, only one is still at large.

Serbia's readiness to turn over Mladic, once widely regarded in the country as a ‘"war hero," is further indication that post-Yugoslav societies are eager to start a new chapter. Of course, many issues have yet to be resolved. Neither Bosnia-Herzegovina nor Kosovo appear able to function without international peacekeeping forces. Nevertheless, it is clear that the focus is on looking ahead to a joint future within Europe rather than on remaining stuck in the sectarian conflicts of the past.

What these factors show is that the EU is particularly successful as a stabilizing factor when it holds out the prospect of membership, and by extension a rosier future. The "arm" that Soft Power Europe wields is the promise of a better life. And that's an all-around more attractive message than anything a mass murderer like Mladic had to offer.

Read the original article in German

photo - Steffan42

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​photograph of a smartphone on a selfie stick

Smartphone on a selfie stick

Steve Gale/Unsplash
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