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EU Set to Grant Serbia Candidate Status

RIA Novosti

02:14 02/03/2012 MOSCOW, March 2 (RIA Novosti) - European Union leaders have agreed to formally make Serbia a candidate for EU accession during a Thursday summit in Brussels, Western media reported, quoting a draft summit conclusion.

"The European Council granted candidate status to Serbia,” the draft statement reads.

Romania, which has threatened to block Serbia's membership bid, removed its objections after the two countries agreed ahead of the summit to mutually respect the rights of each other's minority groups.

EU foreign ministers endorsed Serbia’s candidacy for accession to the 27-member bloc earlier this week.

Belgrade applied for EU membership in 2009. Media reports said it would take about a year for actual accession talks to begin.

Serbia spent much of the 1990s isolated from the EU after its then-strongman Slobodan Milosevic started wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

In 1999, NATO bombed Serbia to prevent a crackdown on ethnic Albanians, in the first military campaign in the alliance's history.

Thursday’s decision marks the recognition by the EU of Serbia’s efforts to normalize relations with Kosovo and round up war crimes suspects to satisfy EU demands.

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