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Serbia Officially Opens EU Accession Talks

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic (left) was welcomed by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso ahead of a meeting at EC headquarters in Brussels on January 21.
Serbia has officially started its European Union accession negotiations in Brussels, with Prime Minister Ivica Dacic leading Belgrade's delegation.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said the official start of the membership talks on January 21 marks "a new and crucial phase" in the bloc's relationship with Serbia.

Dacic called the event Serbia's most important since the end of World War II.

Dacic said that Belgrade hopes to finish negotiations completely by 2018 and become an EU member by 2020.

The official launch of the talks comes after Serbia made significant steps in efforts to normalize ties with Kosovo.

The negotiations will begin with the two most difficult and important of the 35 policy chapters that must be successfully negotiated prior to membership, those on the judiciary and basic rights.

In other business in Brussels, the European Parliament is reviewing progress reports about Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. It is expected to hold votes later in the day.

European lawmakers also are scheduled to review the EU’s strategy on Iran.

That review is to be conducted as a public hearing.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak and Reuters
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