July 10, 2005 7:26 pm

Bosnia is shackled as long as war criminals are free

The massacre of 8,000 Bosnians in and around Srebrenica was a monstrous crime. In moral, human and political terms, it was the darkest hour of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. In fact, it Among the many outrages of those wars, Srebrenica stands out as by far the worst atrocity in Europe since the end of the second world war.

The mass killing of Muslim men and boys by Serbian forces and paramilitaries was merciless and systematic. What made things worse is that the victims had put their trust in the United Nations and in international ­protection. But we, The international community, let them down. It was a colossal, collective and shameful failure.

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The memories of those days still haunt usall: the families of the victimsand especially the wives and mothers who lost their loved ones; the small number of survivorssome of whom have returned to the area; the ­people of Bosnia-Herzegovina for whom Srebrenica became a symbol of the war and of their blood-stained ­independence; but also a generation of European leaders myself included,. We are scarred and humbled by our inability to prevent this unspeakable crime.

It was as a result of Srebrenica that we took decisive action to change the course of events in Bosnia. Later In 1995, at Dayton, we finally reached a political agreement that ended the Bosnian war. Like the others involved, the European Union should have done more, and earlier, to help to protect defenceless people. I deeply regret that we did not.

We Europeans cannot and should not erase the past. European history is full of memories, many of which are painful and bitter. Churchill has rightly said that (especially)this part of Europe produces more history than it can consume. Still, we should try to transcend our history and forge a common future. And Bosnia’s future lies in Europe.

In the past ten 10 years, Bosnia has moved towards that European future. That progress is down to the choices and hard work of those Bosnians who want their country to work. We in the EU have been playing and will continue to play our full part. The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, culminating in the Srebrenica atrocity, and the realisation that we lacked the tools to address the disaster collectively at EU level, was a lesson to us. Since then, we have forged a more united EU foreign policy, with a crisis management capacity to back it up. It is no accident that Bosnia-Herzegovina has been a top priority for EU external action in recent years.

Through the 7,000-strong EUFOR Althea operation – the largest stabilisation mission ever launched by the EU – as well as through a police mission, we have sought to provide a secure environment and support police reform. Through significant sums of financial assistance – more than €2bn ($2.4bn) since 1995 – we are helping to build a stable, well-functioning state. And most significant of all, we have made clear that, provided clear conditions are met, we will accompany Bosnia towards its final destination of entry into the EU.

We should not forget that Srebrenica was partly a consequence of the absence of a strong and united Europe. Nor should we forget that today Europe’s magnetic pull is a major factor of international peace and stability in the region.

osnia’s integration into EU structures is our goal and we stand ready to help it. But To get there Bosnia needs to implement and sustain many important political and economic reforms. It is clear that there can be no integration without reconciliation. And there can be no reconciliation without justice. It is therefore a moral and political imperative to have all those responsible for the crimes of the Bosnia war tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

Some of those responsible for the Srebrenica massacre have had their day in court – and I welcome the more active co-operation of the current Serbian leadership. Radislav Krstic, the former Bosnian Serb general, has been convicted of “aiding and abetting genocide”. Others, such as Slobodan ­Milosevic are awaiting their verdict. But we all know that Bosnia cannot move forward and the ghosts of ­Srebrenica cannot be laid to rest while some indicted suspects, Bosnian Serb leaders, notably Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, remain free.

I fully support the excellent work of the ICTY and Carla del Ponte, its prosecutor. Of the 162 people indicted for crimes committed during all the Yugoslav wars, only 10 remain at large. For its part, the EU has introduced concrete, targeted measures (a visa ban and assets freeze) against those who obstruct the work of the ICTY. and who support Karadzic and Mladic.

Ten years is far too long. It is time to bring this shameful episode to an end. a closure. These men need to be in The Hague. That is what the families of the Srebrenica victims want and deserve. It is also what Bosnia and the wider region need. We in the EU will do everything in our power to make it happen.

The writer is chief foreign policy ­representative of the European Union

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