By Linda Young

Brussels, Belgium

The European Commission has recommended Serbia for EU candidate status, assuring the Balkan state can enter the European Union once it makes necessary progress in its relations with Kosovo, which has declared itself as an independent state.

Montenegro and the Republic of Macedonia have already started EU entry negotiations with the world's largest trading bloc, while Croatia will join on July 1, 2013, the commission said.

The commission's recommendations will require approval of all 27 member-nations by December.

"I recommend granting Serbia candidate status on understanding that Serbia re-engages in the dialogue with Kosovo and is moving swiftly to the implementation in good faith of agreements reached to date," Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule said on Tuesday in Brussels.

"The fact that this is the only priority we set is in itself a tribute to the reforms we have witnessed," he added.

The EU has previously demanded Serbia hand over two suspected war-crime fugitives to The Hague, which Serbia fulfilled earlier this year. Now, the EU is pressuring Serbia to renounce its claims on Kosovo -- a demand Belgrade vehemently opposes.


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