European Union foreign ministers say they will no longer block a trade agreement and closer ties with Serbia. The decision came after the Netherlands lifted its opposition to closer EU ties, ending an 18-month standoff. The Dutch government had been blocking an interim trade deal, demanding that Serbia do more to track down fugitive Balkans war crimes suspects. But the breakthrough removes a major obstacle to Serbia applying for full membership of the EU, analysts say.
Serbia's EU-accession hopes have been dogged by its failure to arrest the Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect, General Ratko Mladic.
The Netherlands had been blocking an interim trade deal because it wants General Mladic handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. But earlier this month the UN's chief war crimes prosecutor said Serbia's co-operation with the ICTY was "progressing". However, in his report to the UN, Serge Brammertz said Serbia must continue searching for both Gen Mladic, the Bosnian-Serb military leader, and Goran Hadzic, who is wanted for war crimes in Croatia. (BBC Dec 8).