Kosovo should move "even closer to the EU," Ashton says
Mar 1, 2012, 12:07 GMT
Brussels - Kosovo should become ever more associated with the European Union, the bloc's foreign policy chief said Thursday, ahead of a summit decision that was expected to grant Serbia EU candidate status.
'Today I reiterated my wish to see you move even closer to the European Union,' Catherine Ashton said after a meeting in Brussels with Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
A two-day summit starting later Thursday was due to grant Serbia EU candidate status, after the Balkan country complied last week with the bloc's request to strike cooperation deals with its former province.
The decision was expected despite last-minute opposition from Romania, which complained Tuesday about the treatment of the Wallachian minority in Serbia. Romanian media reported Thursday that Belgrade and Bucharest would sign a bilateral agreement on the protection of minorities, removing the obstacle.
As part of the EU-brokered agreements between Belgrade and Pristina, Kosovo was also offered a feasibility study by the European Commission on the possibility of an EU-Kosovo association deal.
The issue is politically sensitive because five EU nations - Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus - back Serbia's refusal to recognize Kosovo as an independent country.
A diplomat from one of those five EU nations expressed unease about the commission's move, but added that EU governments could not block the feasibility study. They could, however, stop the EU from actually launching negotiations on the deal.
'I firmly believe that the steps we are doing are difficult because of the past. But these steps are crucial for our joint European perspective,' Thaci said.
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