Serbia Moves Toward EU Candidate Status; Verdict Due Feb. 28

Serbia is moving toward being named a candidate for European Union membership after striking a compromise on the diplomatic recognition of Kosovo, its former province, an EU official said.

EU governments are likely to declare Serbia a candidate tomorrow after 24 of the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers spoke out in favor at a Brussels meeting today, said the official, who declined to be named in line with EU rules.

Candidate status is Serbia’s reward for allowing representatives of the Kosovo government to take part in international meetings, even though it still refuses to recognize the province’s 2008 breakaway.

“Serbia has fulfilled the requirements for candidate status,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told reporters.

The status would move Serbia closer to starting EU entry talks, though without a set timeline or guarantee of admission. Turkey, for example, has made little progress toward joining since being welcomed as a candidate in 1999.

Poland, Romania and Lithuania voiced concerns about making the offer to Serbia, though without threatening to block it, the EU official said.

EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said she hopes governments will give Serbia the green light at tomorrow’s meeting.

The agreement between Serbia and Kosovo “marks a new turning point in moving toward,” she said today in Brussels at a briefing with Serbian President Boris Tadic. “I have long believed that Serbia’s place is in the European Union.”

To contact the reporter on this story: James G. Neuger in Brussels at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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