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Serbia To Start EU Accession Talks In January

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic called it a "historic moment for Serbia."
BRUSSELS -- Serbia has been given the green light to open EU accession negotiations in January.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele wrote on Twitter that EU ministers had "acknowledged reform and normalization efforts," with Kosovo.

Fuele said the talks will start on January 21.

"On Serbia and Kosovo, I applaud both prime ministers on the remarkable efforts they have made towards normalization this year with expert facilitation and political facilitation of [EU foreign-policy chief] Cathy Ashton. I am pleased that the council has acknowledged these efforts," Fuele announced after a meeting of EU ministers for foreign and European affairs in Brussels on December 17.

"The adopting of the negotiation framework is an important step forward for Serbia," he added.

Speaking on national TV, Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dacic called it a "historic moment for Serbia."

Serbia and Kosovo have been at odds since 2008, when Kosovo seceded.

After months of EU-brokered talks, the two sides reached an agreement in April aimed at ending the virtual ethnic partition of Kosovo between its ethnic Albanian majority and a pocket of some 50,000 Serbs in the north.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius -- whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency -- cautioned on December 17 that there are "still many challenges" left in implementing that EU-brokered deal between Kosovo and Serbia.

Out of Serbia's former Yugoslav peers, Croatia and Slovenia are EU members.

Serbia applied for EU membership back in 2009. Securing actual membership could take several more years, analyst say, as Belgrade will need to negotiate 35 so-called chapters with the bloc.

The EU is also negotiating a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo, despite the fact five EU member state do not recognize its independence.

After the meeting in Brussels, Fuele said he was "confident" the negotiations between the EU and Kosovo can be wrapped up by early 2014.

Fuele, however, was less upbeat over Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is on the EU's list as a "potential candidate country."

"I must also share the serious concerns expressed by the council over the fact that the European Union integration process has stalled in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I have personally invested many hours discussing many different options with the political leaders of the country, seeking a way forward," Fuele said.

Another potential candidate country, Albania, suffered a setback to its chances to join the bloc anytime soon.

EU ministers told Tirana it must do more to fight corruption and organized crime.
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