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EU, Kosovo to sign accord on closer ties soon: sources

Update: October, 21/2015 - 10:00

BRUSSELS — The European Union is moving nearer to signing an accord with Kosovo on improved ties which could open the way to eventual EU membership for the small Balkan country, EU sources said yesterday.

"We will have a decision soon," one of the sources said of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement which was initialled by the two sides in mid-2014.

Asked about the report, European Commission foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic declined to comment on the possible timing.

Kocijancic recalled that the EU executive had recommended in April that the European Council, which groups the member-state governments, should take up the SAA.

"The Council is now finalising the adoption procedures with a view to the signing of this agreement," she said, without elaborating.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after years of tension between the two in the fallout from the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Serbia refused to recognise the breakaway but 23 of the 28 EU member states, plus the United States and many other countries did so.

As part of its efforts to promote stability in its neighbourhood, the EU brokered a normalisation accord between Kosovo and Serbia in 2013, clearing the way for membership talks with Belgrade and an SAA accord with Pristina.

Under an SAA, a country is required to adopt reforms – for example on human rights and the judiciary – so as to match EU norms as a prelude to possible membership negotiations.

The EU admitted most of the former Communist states of eastern Europe in 2004 and 2007 but the Commission, its executive arm, has made clear that no new members will be admitted in its current term to 2020.

Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Turkey are EU candidate countries.

Croatia, another former Yugoslav entity, was the last country to join the bloc, in 2013. — AFP

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