BELGRADE — Serbia’s president, Boris Tadic, said yesterday it is time the European Union did its part by boosting his nation’s efforts to join the bloc, arguing the arrest of war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic proves it is serious about rejoining the international fold.
Tadic also rejected speculation that Serbian authorities had known of Mladic’s hiding place but delayed his arrest to coincide with a visit by Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief. The rumors have persisted because Mladic was found living not far from the capital, Belgrade, with relatives who share his last name.
“Any such comment makes no sense,’’ Tadic said. “The truth is that we arrested Ratko Mladic the moment we discovered him.’’
Mladic, Europe’s most wanted war crimes fugitive, was arrested Thursday in a village north of Belgrade after 16 years on the run.
He is charged by a UN war crimes court for atrocities committed by his troops during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
Mladic’s lawyer formally appealed his extradition order on health grounds yesterday, which could briefly delay in the former general’s departure from Serbia for trial in The Hague.
The appeal contends that Mladic, 69, is physically and mentally unfit for trial.
Tadic said he wants the international community to recognize what Serbia has done and act on its membership hopes. He also pledged to implement key reforms necessary for membership.
The EU has repeatedly said that Serbia could win premembership talks only on the condition it arrested the wartime Bosnian Serb commander.