'Economic Pressure Forced Milosevic Handover'

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Serbian police stand guard in front of Belgrade's central prison

TIME.com: The Yugoslav government has launched legal proceedings to facilitate sending Slobodan Milosevic to the Hague to stand trial for war crimes. Is his extradition now a sure thing?

Dejan Anastasijevic: Yes, this is more or less a formality and he's likely to be sent to the Hague in a couple of weeks, after the deadline has expired for his appeals. The government's decree defines the procedure by which the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia's request will be processed through the local judiciary, and after his appeals are reviewed, Milosevic will very likely be sent over. It may take a little bit longer because Milosevic's lawyers are challenging the legality and constitutionality of the decree, but there is no serious opposition to the decision to send him for trial.

That appears to be a significant shift. After all, President Kostunica showed little enthusiasm for sending Milosevic to the Hague in the months that followed his overthrow.

Yes, Kostunica's views on this issue have evolved since his election. During his election campaign last year and immediately afterwards, his line was that cooperation with the Hague Tribunal was very low on his priority list, and also that in principle he was against turning anybody over for trial in the Hague. But he has since softened his stance, and is now quite clearly in favor of cooperation with the Tribunal — one of his reasons being that Yugoslavia desperately needs foreign aid and investment, and most importantly, rescheduling of its debt. And the U.S. government had made clear that it would vote against aid to Belgrade in the IMF and World Bank, and would block rescheduling of the debt, if the Yugoslav government refused to cooperate

But it's also important to remember that Kostunica was under pressure from most of the members of his own ruling coalition, who favored cooperation with the Tribunal. In opposing it, Kostunica was in the minority even within his own government. So now that the first step has been taken, Milosevic won't be with us for much longer.

How have ordinary Serbs responded to the decision?

As an illustration of how they feel, when Milosevic's party called for immediate protests after the decree was announced on Sunday, less than 200 people turned out to demonstrate, most of them old women. Opinion polls now show that a clear majority of people in Serbia say he should be extradited.

You've previously said that the deeper challenge posed by a Milosevic trial is the soul-searching necessary for Serbian society as a whole on the issue of complicity in his crimes. Is Serbia now more open to dealing with its recent past?

Yes, and even more so, I think, when the evidence against Milosevic is revealed. The recent discoveries of mass graves, a new one almost every day, here in Serbia have revealed Milosevic's efforts to cover up what happened in Kosovo. And that has helped change attitudes here to examining the past.