BRUSSELS -- The European Union has opened new chapters in the accession negotiations with Montenegro and Serbia in a move that brings the two countries somewhat closer to joining the bloc.
The bloc on December 11 opened two new chapters for Montenegro, covering freedom of movement for workers and services.
It brings the total number of chapters opened between Podgorica and Brussels to 33 out of 35. Three of the chapters have already been negotiated or closed.
The EU also opened two chapters for Serbia, on company law and external relations, bringing to 12 the total number of chapters open for the country -- with two of the closed -- which has been in EU membership talks since January 2014.
Serbia and Montenegro are the Western Balkan countries closest to joining the EU.
Accession negotiations, which take years, are split into 35 chapters covering areas such as the economy, energy, rule of law, and human rights, to help the joining country align its practices with European Union standards.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has said that there will be no more enlargement of the EU during his term, which ends in 2019, but that after that, expanding into the Balkans is vital to maintain "stability in our neighborhood."