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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Decision Outlines Framework For Balkan Accession to the EU

BRUSSELS -- No western Balkan nation will be able to join the European Union before 2012, except Croatia, which may qualify as early as 2010, European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said Tuesday.

Signaling the European Commission's optimism regarding reforms in Serbia, Rehn said he would initial a premembership accord with the Belgrade government. The decision was made after a positive assessment of Serbia's cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal.

"This marks a real turning point for Serbia," Rehn said, noting that all other candidate nations already have such accords. "A new European dawn is in the making in Serbia."

The European Commission issued its annual enlargement report assessing progress in economic and other reforms made EU candidates Croatia and Macedonia and four other west Balkan nations -- Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia -- that hope to be declared formal candidates in the years ahead.

The report concluded that there has been "steady, though uneven progress [toward membership] in the western Balkans and the region continues to face major challenges."

In 2004, in its single largest expansion ever, the EU grew to 25 members absorbing Malta, Cyprus and eight East European nations. Romania and Bulgaria joined this year. The EU is determined to bring in the western Balkans, arguing that their accession will serve Europe's strategic interests of enhancing peace, security, liberty, democracy and conflict prevention.