The arrest of Radko Mladic (NYT) represents a major step forward for the cause of justice and reconciliation in the Balkans. Along with Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Mladic was one of the leading symbols of the ethnic slaughter that accompanied the dissolution of Yugoslavia during the 1990s. He allegedly oversaw the massacre at Srebenica in 1995, where some eight thousand Bosnian Muslims were killed.
Karadzic is already being tried in The Hague for charges of genocide; Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Serbia and the architect of the war, died in 2006 during his trial. It is presumed that Serbia, which apprehended Mladic this morning in the northern part of the country, will soon turn him over to The Hague. Mladic spent the past fifteen years in hiding, with presumably much of that time in Serbia. Serbia's accession talks with the European Union have been effectively on hold due to concern among EU member states that Serbia was deliberately harboring Mladic--or at least not doing enough to apprehend him. His arrest is likely to clear the way for Serbia's integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.
There remains much unfinished business in the Balkans, but Mladic's capture quickens the region's movement down the right path. Reconciliation across the region should advance as the victims of ethnic bloodshed feel that justice is being meted out. Serbia's growing cooperation with its obligations to apprehend indicted war criminals is also indicative of its pressing desire to pursue membership in the EU, which may well manifest itself in negotiations with Kosovo over the prospects for normalization. Indeed, forceful EU bargaining with Serbia has already convinced Belgrade to take a more pragmatic approach to dealing with Kosovo. The current Serbian government has been gradually moving away from a more hard-edged nationalism toward the moderate center, and that change is gradually manifesting itself in its approach to Kosovo, cooperation with The Hague, and regional diplomacy.
Bosnia is hardly out of the woods. Its government is effectively paralyzed and the country is in need of constitutional reform. Macedonia as well has challenges ahead in terms of consolidating its multiethnic character. And normalization between Kosovo and Serbia will be long and slow in the making. But Mladic's capture is an important turning point for the region.