The European Union (EU) on Thursday threatened to suspend talks with Serbia on an agreement leading to eventual EU membership if Belgrade does not hand over former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic and other indicted war crime suspects to the UN tribunal in The Hague.
"I would see it as extremely difficult to conclude negotiations on the SAA with Serbia without the full cooperation with the ICTY, " EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters in Brussels.
"Serbia has to choose now between its nationalist past and a European future. I hope it will choose a European future," Rehn said after meeting Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
The EU is negotiating a Stability and Association Agreement ( SAA) with Serbia in an initial step toward eventual EU membership. Brussels has always insisted that full cooperation with The Hague tribunal is vital to Belgrade's EU bid.
Rehn said Serbia has the responsibility to respect its obligation toward the ICTY and bring Mladic to justice. The former Bosnian Serb general has been indicted for genocide and other war crimes and has been on the run since 1995.
"I will need to consult the (EU) member states (on whether to suspend talks on the SAA), but suspension of the negotiations is certainly one alternative," he said.
"I expect the Serbian government to take the question very seriously so that we don't have to resort to this option," Rehn said.
Del Ponte said that as far as she knows, Mladic is in Serbia and is protected by the Serbian army.
"What I need, and what is an international obligation from Belgrade, is to arrest him and deliver him to The Hague," she said.
The chief prosecutor said she wanted to see Mladic and all the other nine fugitives accused of involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre stand trial in July this year.
"Mladic must appear in court in July," she said.
Del Ponte said the tribunal does not expect Slobodan Milosevic, who is on trial in The Hague, to be transferred to Moscow for medical treatment although the former Yugoslav president had made a request for that.
"I have no doubt that the trial chamber will not accept (the request). Milosevic has very good doctors in The Hague and all he needs for his health," she said.
Del Ponte also met the EU's high representative for common foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer to ask for greater pressure to be put on Serbia to deliver the fugitives.
The EU is holding parallel SAA talks with Montenegro, the other republic of Serbia and Montenegro, which was called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Rehn said the talks with Montenegro would not be affected as it has fully cooperated with the ICTY.