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News World

European Union angered by Serbs, freezes stabilization talks
The US ambassador said on Friday that he closed the consulate in the northwestern city of Banja Luka a day after protesters burned the US flag and tried to storm the consulate building. Ambassador Charles English said he decided to temporarily close the consulate in Banja Luka after Bosnian Serb officials could not discount the possibility of further violence.
Prominent EU leaders yesterday slammed Serbian authorities for failing to take necessary measures to protect foreign missions in Belgrade, with Brussels saying that talks on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), the very first step to possible membership in the EU, have been frozen until the violence ends.


Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and Council of Europe Secretary-General Terry Davis all strongly condemned the violence and criticized Serbian authorities for their inaction. The demonstrations during which the Turkish Embassy together with the US, Croatian and several other embassies were attacked revived the image of a Serbia from the 1990s, when the country was led by then President Slobodan Milosevic. Under Milosevic’s presidency, Serbia underwent an ultranationalist period that resulted in Kosovo’s independence. Milosevic died in The Hague, where he was tried for crimes against humanity during the Bosnian War of 1992-1995.

The bluntest reaction came from Davis, who openly accused Serbian authorities of not taking precautions. “Serbian authorities should have provided adequate security and ensured that the protests which they had organized would not get out of control. I am very concerned about the reports that this has not been the case. The least they can do now is to condemn strongly and unconditionally all acts of violence and make sure that they are not repeated.” In an indirect reference to Serbian nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, whose remarks in the past several days were compared to those of Milosevic, the enlargement commissioner invited Serbian authorities to be more responsible. “I call on the Serbian authorities to ensure the proper protection of diplomatic missions in the country. We urge all Serbian politicians to call for restraint and avoid statements that could further inflame the situation,” said Rehn.

But the action came from Solana, who announced in Slovenia, the EU term president, that talks on the SAA were frozen because of the violence. “Embassies have to be protected, and that is [Serbia’s] obligation,” Solana said, speaking at the Brdo pri Kranju estate, just outside Ljubljana, where he was attending an informal meeting of EU defense ministers. “These acts [of violence] won’t lead anywhere,” he said. Launched last year, talks between Belgrade and Brussels on the SAA quickly stalled. The Netherlands blocked a deal because of Serbia’s failure to hand over UN war crimes suspects, notably former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic. As a result, the EU offered Serbia a political cooperation deal instead. But Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica rejected that since many EU countries had signaled their support for Kosovo’s independence.

23.02.2008

SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI  BRUSSELS
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