EU ministers are set to hold tricky talks on December 11 as they try to decide whether to grant Serbia a date for the start of negotiations to join the 27-member bloc.
Serbia was given official candidate status in March, but some EU member states are wary of taking the next step until Serbia normalizes relations with its erstwhile province Kosovo. Some even insist Belgrade should recognize Kosovan independence before moving the process forward.
However, Serbia's nationalist government has said it would rather give up its EU ambitions than recognize a state that it still regards as an integral province of the country.
In a bid to prevent such an impasse, Belgrade has attended EU-brokered talks with Pristina, most recently at the unprecedented level of prime ministers. One outcome from those negotiations - which aim to remove obstacles to normal life stemming from Kosovo's secession - has been an agreement on the joint management of crossing points, some of which started operating on December 10.
Yet, "some member states cannot accept" setting a negotiating date for Serbia right now, an unnamed EU official told dpa. "We are working on language which would be not that absolute, but at the same time would allow us to give a positive signal to Serbia," he said.
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