EU ministers agree candidate status for Serbia: French FM
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoEU foreign ministers on Monday approved a first key step in Serbia's bid to join the European Union, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.
"There was an agreement today," Juppe told journalists during a break in ministerial talks in Brussels.
A formal decision to grant Serbia candidate status is to be given by European Affairs ministers on Tuesday, with an EU summit to deliver the final verdict on March 1 and 2.
"At last there were no further objections today," Juppe said.
"This will encourage Belgrade to progress on its path towards rapprochement with the EU" although he said there is "still ground to cover".
Several European Union foreign ministers spoke out in favour of backing Belgrade's long drive to join the 27-member club.
"Serbia has fulfilled the conditions for candidate status," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.
"I hope it wil be possible to give the status of candidate to Serbia," said Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders, who pledged to plead in Belgrade's favour.
Czech minister Karel Schwarzenberg also expressed hopes "we will finally come to a positive agreement" and Austria's Michael Spindelegger said "the mainstream is in favour of giving Serbia the status of candidate now".
Belgrade strengthened its chances of winning entry into the bloc in an 11th hour deal with Kosovo Friday that enables the breakaway province to be a full diplomatic player on the Western Balkans scene, alongside Serbia.
The groundbreaking accord notably allows Kosovo -- which unilaterally declared independence in 2008 -- to take part in official regional meetings and organisations in its own right and as a full member.