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Abstract

The countries of the former Yugoslavia inherited a difficult legacy of mass atrocities and human rights abuse from the wars of the 1990s. The European Union’s association and accession conditionality with respect to Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia incorporates the problem of dealing with war crimes only insofar as it requires full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. While transfers of war crimes suspects to The Hague have dominated EU relations with the countries of the Western Balkans, domestic transitional justice mechanisms such as truth-telling inquiries and war crimes trials have been ignored by the international community. However, international justice remains both remote and heavily contested across the region, and is often used to radicalise nationalist sentiments instead of facilitating reconciliation among ethnic communities. The goals of EU conditionality in ex-Yugoslavia – promoting reconciliation and cross-border cooperation – can only be effectively advanced if mechanisms of transitional justice are employed at the national level, articulating truth and rebuilding the rule of law by establishing war crimes accountability from within.