BELGRADE, July 6 (Reuters) - The European Union has not shut the door on Serbia but will only restart talks on closer ties once Belgrade brings war crime fugitives to justice, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Thursday.
The EU froze talks on a so-called Stabilisation and Association Agreement two months ago because Belgrade failed to deliver Bosnian Serb fugitive Ratko Mladic to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
During an official visit to Belgrade, Rehn said the EU was still "actively engaged in the European future of Serbia".
As proof of its commitment, it had prepared a separate negotiation mandate for Serbia, which was conducting association talks with Montenegro until it voted to pull out of their union in May.
"Full cooperation with the ICTY, which needs to lead to the arrest and transfer of Ratko Mladic, remains the necessary condition to resume the talks for the SAA agreement," Rehn said after a meeting with Serbia's pro-Western president Boris Tadic.
The association agreement would be the first step on Serbia's long road to eventual EU membership. The suspension left Serbia as the only country in the Balkans without a roadmap to accession, even behind once Stalinist Albania which signed up last month.
Apart from the EU rebuff, the Montenegro vote and the prospect of independence this year for the breakaway province of Kosovo have increased Serbia's feelings of betrayal by the West.
Echoing the frustration of ordinary Serbs, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica last month said the EU stance was "deeply wrong" and counter-productive. Brussels said he was trying to shift blame for his government's failures.
But worried that wounded pride will further boost the ultranationalist Radical Party, already the country's strongest, Western officials have urged the international community to show Serbs their future lies within Europe and NATO, not chauvinism and isolation.
While Brussels has made a number of goodwill gestures that include promises of financial aid and easing of the gruelling visa regime, it has never wavered from its condition on war crimes suspects.
Rehn said he was heartened by the preparation of an "action plan" by the Serbian government to get negotiations back on track by arresting Mladic, who is twice indicted for genocide for his role in the 1992-95 Bosnia war.