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Croatia co-operates with eye to future

11 March 08 12:13 GMT

Three Croatian military commanders are going on trial in the Hague accused of the murder and mistreatment of Serbs in Croatia's Krajina region in 1995. Among them is General Ante Gotovina a man who remains a hero to many of his compatriots.

But as BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus explains, the trial underlines the relative success of Croatia in coming to terms with the past.

The international effort to achieve justice for the victims of war crimes in the Balkans continues.

But the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former-Yugoslavia which is based in the Hague has no police force of its own.

To a large extent it depends upon the co-operation of the governments who now control successor states of Yugoslavia.

This is what makes the trial of three Croatian military commanders so interesting.

General Ante Gotovina was arrested in the Canary Islands some three years ago.

But the Croatian authorities have co-operated in handing over suspects to the tribunal relatively well - a fact which explains Croatia's advanced position in the queue to join the European Union.

The Zagreb government may well also receive an invitation to join Nato when alliance leaders meet next month in Bucharest.

Clearly economic and military factors have been weighed up by the two organisations' existing members.

But a willingness to hand over suspected war criminals has also been a fundamental factor for a number of governments.

Contrast the position with Serbia which has been far more reluctant to work with the tribunal.

Some of the highest-ranking Serbian suspects, like Radovan Karadzic - remain underground.

And for a number of member governments the war crimes issue remains a fundamental barrier to any serious consideration of Serbian membership of the European Union, even if, in the wake of new elections, the Belgrade government opts to follow the European path.

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