Serbia. After 16 years of escape from international justice, former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić was arrested in May. According to Countryaah official site, Serbian special police found Mladić in a relative’s house in the province of Vojvodina. Within a few days, he was transferred to the War Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. Before the court, he rejected all allegations of, among other things, genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1990s war in Bosnia.
In July, Goran Hadžić was also arrested in a village north of Belgrade when he tried to sell a stolen piece of art by Modigliani. Hadžić was the last to be apprehended by the 161 people charged by the Hague Tribunal. He was also extradited to face trial for war crimes, in his case in the Serbian Extermination Republic of Krajina in Croatia.
The arrests were a decisive step in approaching the EU. In October, the European Commission issued a clear sign for Serbia as a candidate country. The EU praised legal reforms implemented, with enhanced human rights protection and an alignment with EU rules.
At the same time, membership negotiations seemed distant as long as Serbia did not normalize relations with Kosovo. The Belgrade government maintained that it would never recognize the independence of the former Serbian province. The situation was tense, especially south of the border where Kosovo Serbs protested against attempts to staff the border with Kosovo’s own police. A planned Pride festival in Belgrade in September was banned with reference to public safety. The concern was great for a repeat of the violence that characterized the festival last year. The organizers accused the authorities of succumbing to right-wing violent perpetrators. In the politically divisive Serbia, many were excited about the opportunity to jointly pay tribute to Serbian tennis professional Novak Đoković, who won three Grand Slam titles during the year and was ranked as the world’s best tennis player.
In July, the Serbian Journalist Federation expressed its concern about the ever-tighter framework for freedom of expression in the country. At the same time, web sites were blocked, blogs removed and bloggers arrested. The situation developed so far that the OSCE responsible for press freedom wrote to Vučić and expressed concern for the freedom of the press. Vučić replied that it was an international campaign against the country because it would not endorse EU and US sanctions against Russia, triggered by the crisis in Ukraine.
Despite counter-demonstrations, the first Gay-Pride parade was held in September 2014 after being banned by the authorities for several years. The parade was peaceful.
In an effort to facilitate the accession negotiations with the EU, during the refugee crisis in 2015, Serbia drew close to Germany, declaring that the country would not close its borders on refugees. This resulted in a collision course with its refugee-enemy neighboring countries Croatia and Hungary. 600,000 refugees passed through the country in transit in 2015. In September 2015, Croatia completely closed the border to Serbia – for both goods and people. Serbia threatened retaliation if the border was not reopened. The conflict was not resolved until after the EU Commission intervention. However, relations with Croatia became increasingly cool. In April 2016, Croatia officially announced that it was blocking Serbia’s accession to the EU. The EU Commission rejected Croatia’s arguments, but it nevertheless chose to continue its blockade of Serbian accession.
Parliamentary elections were scheduled for March 2018, but in January 2016, Prime Minister Vučić announced surprising new elections for April in the same year. This was done with reference to the fact that Serbia needed stability during its accession negotiations with the EU. The election became a stinging ear to the ruling SNS coalition, which went back 39 seats to 131. However, it still had a majority in parliament, so the government continued. In turn, the election garnered 5 new parties representation in parliament. The three of them were non-minority parties able to cross the 5% barrier.