With Serbia arresting the last big PIFWC (person indicted for war crime–my favorite NATO acronym)–Ratko Mladic (see my post about the previous arrest, of Karadzic), does this mean that I was wrong about the power of conditionality?  That is, the Steve and Bill book argues that we ought not overestimate the threats organizations like the European Union or NATO make about conditions for membership.  We argue there and elsewhere that the requirements are unenforced (Cyprus gets in despite not settling its ethnic problems, Romania and Bulgaria get in with their shaky rule of law); that the rules do not apply to members so that once you are in, you can go back to violating the rules; and so on.

But Serbia seems to have knuckled under to EU pressure and will be sending Mladic to The Hague stand trial for genocide, ethnic cleansing and all the rest.  But the pressure has been applied since 1995.  Can we say that conditionality worked if it took 16 years?  Oh, and enlargement is probably not a realistic option right now since the EU is focused on its own internal crises (driven by past poor decisions about ignoring conditions–letting Greece and others into the Euro zone).  So, the timing here is interesting–submitting to the PIFWC conditions when the conditions are least relevant, as opposed to earlier when other countries were in the queue to join the EU (despite not meeting other conditions).

I have not been following Serbia’s politics closely, but this is still a very important decision, whether it is to suck up to the EU or not.  After all, a preceding leader of Serbia, Zoran Djindjić, was assassinated after sending Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague.  So, the stakes are quite high domestically.  Mladic was reputedly more popular than Karadzic, especially among Serbia’s military and police.  If there are no nasty consequences from this, then this is an important development for civilian control of the military and Serbia’s democratization. 

Getting Mladic to stand trial for his crimes is a big victory for Bosnia, for Serbia, and for justice.  I just am not sure that the EU had a lot to do with it.