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Ashton: Pristina, Belgrade Should Move 'Even Closer To EU'


EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaci in Brussels on March 1.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Prime Minister of Kosovo Hashim Thaci in Brussels on March 1.
BRUSSELS -- The European Union's foreign policy chief says Serbia and Kosovo should continue to take steps toward closer integration with the 27-member bloc.

Catherine Ashton made the statement after meeting in Brussels with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

"We have always said the aim of the dialogue that we set up was to bring both sides closer to the European Union, to enhance cooperation and for me -- most important of all -- to improve the lives of ordinary people," Ashton said, "and I believe that is exactly what we are seeing.

"The history of Europe is one of overcoming historical memories and fears through very practical cooperation. I am very pleased that with this agreement we move forward with Kosovo and with Serbia."

A two-day EU summit getting under way in Brussels is expected to endorse sanctions against Belarus and make Serbia an official candidate for membership in the 27-member bloc.

The summit comes after the Belarusian regime this week told the Polish and EU ambassadors to leave Minsk and recalled its own envoy from Brussels in response to new EU sanctions targeting Belarusian judges and police.

EU leaders reportedly plan to express "serious and deepening concern" over the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus.

The summit in Brussels is also expected to endorse offering Serbia full EU candidate status, in recognition of Belgrade's efforts to improve relations with Kosovo.

EU leaders are also due to discuss fiscal discipline and growth-promoting policies in the EU, amid the continuing financial crisis within the eurozone.
With Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels, and Reuters, dpa, AP, and AFP reports
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