On June 28 European Union leaders have agreed to open accession negotiations with Serbia, who´s bid for membership has long been delayed by a dispute over its former province Kosovo and the cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) .
European Council President Herman van Rompuy announced the decision via Twitter during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.
"We are at a historic moment for the Balkans and for Europe as a whole," Van Rompuy told a news conference, noting that the decisions on Serbia and Kosovo came as Croatia prepares to join the European Union on Monday 1st of July.
EU diplomats say the decision is a reward for the reconciliation with the country´s former province, which declared independence in 2008. The accord should lead to a future accession, although many are critical of yet another new member of the EU, pointing to the ‘enlargement fatique’ in many EU member states.
It is expected that Brussels will also start preparations with Kosovo on a so-called Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), which covers trade, economic and political relations and is a first step on the path to eventual EU membership.
In April this year, Serbia and Kosovo reached an agreement which normalized relations between the two countries and opened the way for EU accession talks. The deal included a special police commander and appeal court for the Serb minority in Kosovo.
"These two decisions are a direct result of the courageous decisions taken by Serbia and Kosovo," Van Rompuy said at a news conference, referring to the April pledge to normalise ties between the two former foes.
Germany stressed that this agreement should be fully implemented before the accession talks can start, at latest in January 2014.