European Union foreign ministers were expected to endorse formally on February 28 2012 a recommendation to grant EU candidate country status to Serbia.
The recommendation, spurred by Serbia and Kosovo achieving progress in bilateral dialogue four days earlier, will be subject to endorsement by the bloc’s leaders at a European Council meeting on March 1 and 2.
Reports from Brussels quoted French foreign minister Allan Juppe as having said on February 27 that EU foreign ministers had reached agreement on giving candidate country status to Serbia and that there had been "no objections" to the move.
A European Council meeting in December 2011 postponed a decision on Serbia’s application for candidate country status because of conflict in northern Kosovo and because it wanted further progress in dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.
On February 24, representatives of Serbia and Kosovo reached agreement on how Kosovo would be referred to during regional meetings and on mutual border management. Serbia rejects Kosovo’s 2008 unilateral declaration of independence.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov, in a statement on February 27, said that agreement by EU foreign ministers to grant candidate country status Serbia would be good for the entire region. He reaffirmed Bulgaria’s support for all its neighbours progressing towards the EU on the basis of all commitments in the political and legal criteria for membership, which included how the rights of citizens in the state were respected.
He said that Bulgaria would monitor the situation in Serbia closely, with an emphasis on minority issues and human rights.
A February 24 letter from the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Stefan Fule, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, said that Serbia's achievements in implementing reforms and in the implementation of its international obligations are clear proof that the country deserves to move forward in the process of European integration and that it deserves to obtain candidate status for EU membership..
On February 27, Ashton paid tribute to Serbian president Boris Tadić and Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaçi "for their commitment, energy and willingness to be able to bring about the agreements that have been reached".
Ashton, who was scheduled to meet Serbian and Kosovo leaders in separate talks this week, said that agreements that had been reached "are good for both of them, but especially I think about the potential for both to move forward in what I have long believed is their future, which is as part of the European Union."
"The critical issue for Kosovo that came out of the dialogue in terms of what we call regional co-operation is Kosovo being able to speak for itself," Ashton said.
"There are many other steps on the way, but it's important that the (European) Commission is now proposing a feasibility study, which looks at the potential of having a stabilisation and association agreement. It doesn't mean it will happen and doesn’t mean it won't happen: it is a feasibility study," she said.
"And what is so significant about the dialogue and the importance of what was discussed was that it helps to move us forward bit by bit – this is a journey that Serbia and Kosovo are on, but I think they have taken a significant series of steps on that journey," Ashton said.
Centre-right New Democracy is said by exit polls to have largest share of votes, but diminished even from its 2009 defeat, while socialists Pasok – the 2009 victors – gets somewhere around 14 to 17 per cent.
An agreement reached with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will allow voters with dual citizenship in Kosovo to vote in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Serbia.
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