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Europe's triumph in the arrest of Ratko Mladic

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(Credit: AFP photo - Elivs Barukcic - Newscom)

(Read caption) Bosnian Muslim women, survivors of Srebrenica atrocities in 1995, watch the news on the arrest of Ratko Mladic, in Sarajevo on May 26.

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A diverse Europe has long struggled to end its history of ethnic and religious violence. The European Union was created just to do just that. On Thursday, the continent may have reached a moment of triumph with the capture of Ratko Mladić.

The former commander of the Bosnian Serb army was the most-wanted man behind the 1995 massacre of about 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica. With his arrest in Serbia (and coming trial before a Hague tribunal), the war-ravaged Balkans could now be better prepared to accept long-term peace.

The countries that once made up the former Yugoslavia were the last corner of Europe still prone to large-scale ethnic or religious violence. The victims of the Srebrenica massacre – the largest in Europe since the Holocaust – have to be given justice if the Balkans are to find peace.

The reasons for Mr. Mladić's capture have yet to emerge, but the lessons for other parts of the world – notably the Middle East – are clear. When tribal-like nations such as Serbia decide to put higher values – democracy and market economics – ahead of extreme nationalism, the chances for strife and war go down.

Serbs were not well served by leaders like Slobodan Milosevic who whipped up nationalist passions and historic resentments to stay in power. After a slow transition and astute intervention by the West, Serbia is now eager to join the EU and boost its economy. The capture of Mladić, who may have been protected by some Serb security forces, was a key condition for membership.

The lure of EU-style prosperity, as well as the influence that rising wealth will have on democracy in Serbia, must have contributed to the capture of Mladić.

Civic values do matter, and eventually win out. That's an important lesson now for places like Syria, Libya, and Yemen, where young Arabs of differing tribal and religious stripes are struggling to overcome differences to set up democracies and achieve a better life.

[A footnote: The Monitor discovered the massacre site of the Srebrenica victims, winning the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.]


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