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Paris, Rome, Vienna issue joint call to embrace Serbia in EU

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(BRUSSELS) - Austria, France and Italy have issued a joint plea to open the EU door to Serbia at a summit next week, according to a letter signed by the three and obtained by AFP on Thursday.

In a note Wednesday to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, foreign ministers from the three nations said union members should "honour our promises made in December, give credit to Serbia's recently redoubled commitment and efforts, and grant Serbia candidate status."

European Union leaders in December set new conditions to open the door to Belgrade, notably insisting on progress in EU-sponsored talks between Serbia and Kosovo, which broke away unilaterally from Serbia in 2008.

"We have conducted a thorough analysis of Serbia's progress and have come to the conclusion that the conditions have been met," the ministers said.

Negotiators from Serbia and Kosovo resumed their months-long talks in Brussels on Wednesday, just days before the crucial verdict on Belgrade's long-awaited bid to join the 27-nation bloc.

Talks between the two were continuing for a second day amid hopes of a breakthrough in efforts to overcome problems caused by Kosovo's breakaway and Serbia's refusal to recognise Pristina's independence.

One issue is a bid to enable Kosovo to join regional cooperation bodies, alongside Serbia.

Also under discussion is the prickly question of jointly managing the flashpoint border, where ethnic Serbs who comprise the majority of the north Kosovo area have repeatedly clashed with NATO peacekeepers.

The outcome of the talks will be closely watched in EU nations ahead of a summit next week to announce whether to grant Serbia much-awaited EU candidate status, a key step in joining the bloc.

Germany, notably, has insisted in first seeing progress at the talks.


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