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European Union: Kosovo stands between Serbia and EU membership

In its annual report, the European Commission recommended that Serbia become a formal candidate for EU accession. But a diplomatic deadlock over Kosovo's sovereignty is a major impediment to moving forward.

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A nationalist supporter holding a banner that reads 'We don't want into EU' during a protest against Serbia's integration into the 27-nation bloc in Belgrade, Serbia, on Tuesday. The European Commission in a progress report supported Serbia's candidacy for membership, but said entry talks will depend on relations with Kosovo.

Darko Vojinovic/AP

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Serbia must re-engage with the Kosovo government it regards as illegal in order to move closer to European Union membership, the European Commission (EC) stated on Tuesday.

In its annual report on the country’s progress, the commission recommended that Serbia should become a formal candidate for EU accession, with the caveat that the diplomatic deadlock over Kosovo must be broken. The EC cautiously praised Serbia’s development in other areas, as well as the arrest and extradition of indicted war criminal Ratko Mladic, long seen as the most important precondition to the launch of membership talks.

The Council of Ministers, the EU’s main decisionmaking body, is expected to approve candidate status in December, but when negotiations will actually start, and how swiftly they will move forward, is another question.

While the suspension of talks between Belgrade and Pristina, the Kosovan capital, is likely to prove temporary, the fundamental issue of sovereignty remains unresolved, and will be a major impediment to Serbia’s accession process unless a lasting solution is found. With other reforms also pressing, progress toward membership will be a long, slow grind at best.

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