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EU Clears Way For Bosnia's Membership Bid

EU foreign ministers have approved the next step on Bosnia's road to membership after politicians agreed a series of reforms demanded by the 28-member bloc.

Bosnian political leaders settled longstanding differences last month over a proposed Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Brussels, paving the way for the country to submit a formal membership bid after years of deadlock.

Bosnia is the only country in the Western Balkans that has yet to apply officially for the status of a EU candidate country.

The SAA -- a framework document governing the legal and political relationship between the EU and Sarajevo -- will also allow Bosnia almost complete free trade with the EU.

The 28 EU foreign ministers said the pact could now go ahead but warned Bosnia it will have to meet commitments to bring the country up to EU norms on human rights, democracy, and political and economic freedoms if it wants to join the bloc.

The ministers said in a statement, "Meaningful progress on the implementation of the agenda for reforms...will be necessary for a membership application to be considered by the European Union."

With reporting by AFP and RFE/RL's Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels

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