The European Union has recommended accession negotiations should be opened with Serbia following the government in Belgrade's approval of an EU-brokered deal to normalize relations with its former region of Kosovo.
The European Commisssion -- the 27-member bloc's executive arm -- made the recommendation in a progress report published on April 22.
It said Belgrade "has taken very significant steps and sustainable improvement in relations with Kosovo."
A separate report on Kosovo said that Pristina had also met all its "short-term priorities" and urged member states to authorize "the opening of negotiations on a stabilization and association agreement" with the EU.
Both reports should have been issued last week, but their release was delayed to allow more EU-brokered negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina.
Serbian government spokesman Milivoje Mihajlovic said on April 22 that the government had earlier in the day approved the recognition deal unanimously.
The deal allows local ethnic Serbs in Kosovo to police and manage northern Kosovo, where they form a majority.
In return, the minority Serbs would recognize the authority of the Kosovo central government.
The EU-brokered the deal in Brussels on April 19 in talks with the prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo.
The Serbian parliament is due to hold a special session on the deal later this week.
Serbian Progressive Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said the agreement could be put to a public referendum.
Protesters outside the Kosovo Parliament as lawmakers voted on the EU-mediated deal with Belgrade late on April 21.
The Kosovo parliament voted 89-5 in favor of the deal late on April 21.
As lawmakers were debating the agreement in Pristina, some 200 people protested outside, feeling the Serbs will gain too much control over northern Kosovo.
The agreement has also triggered outrage among Serbian nationalists, who have scheduled major street protests.
Several hundred protesters marched in Belgrade on April 21 chanting, "Treason, treason," and demanding the ouster of the government.
Brussels had demanded that Belgrade normalize relations with Pristina as a condition to begin such negotiations.
Based on reporting by AP, B92, and RFE/RL