EU ministers to back Serbia for EU candidacy

AP News
Posted: Feb 28, 2012 11:37 AM
EU ministers to back Serbia for EU candidacy

EU foreign ministers are recommending that Serbia be allowed to become an official candidate for membership in the 27-nation bloc after Serbia reached a key agreement with its former province of Kosovo.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted congratulations to Serbia after a meeting of the EU's 27 foreign ministers.

Nicolai Wammen, minister of European affairs for Denmark, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said Serbia had fulfilled the conditions demanded by the bloc.

"Candidate status will open a new era for EU-Serbia relations ... and for the future opening of accession negotiations," EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said. He added that a new agreement "paves the way for further progress for Kosovo on the way to the EU."

The final decision on the coveted candidate status for Serbia will be made at a summit this week of EU leaders.

Serbia had been widely expected to be made a formal EU candidate in December after it captured two top war crimes suspects, but was disappointed when Germany blocked its candidacy on the grounds that it wanted to see more progress in talks with Kosovo.

Kosovo is a former province of Serbia that came under international control after a 1999 war in which NATO forces ejected Serbian troops. It declared independence in 2008. Serbia refuses to recognize Kosovo as independent because it considers the area to be the cradle of its statehood and religion.

The EU has insisted that Serbia establish "good-neighborly relations" with its former province. An agreement reached last week will allow Kosovo to represent itself in international conferences and also spells out how Serbia and Kosovo will manage their joint borders.