Serbia took a large step towards integrating with mainstream Europe on Tuesday when European Union foreign ministers called for the country to be made a candidate for union membership.
The breakthrough came despite surprising resistance from neighbouring Romania, and followed a deal last week when Belgrade abandoned boycotting the attendance of Kosovo at regional and international meetings because it views Kosovo as part of Serbia and refuses to recognise its independence.
The decision by the foreign ministers, which needs to be endorsed by EU government heads at a Brussels summit on Thursday, puts Serbia on the path to EU membership, leaving behind the legacy of the 1990s when Balkan wars and ethnic pogroms earned it the status of an international pariah.
But while Belgrade now faces long years of arduous negotiations before it can become a member, Brussels has not yet named a date for opening the negotiations. EU governments will push for greater rapprochement between Serbia and Kosovo before agreeing to start talks.