December 03, 2015 4:26 PM


European Union said Thursday that it would open the first two so-called
chapters of accession talks with Serbia this month, rewarding the country for a
series of accords with its former Kosovo province despite their patchy

chapter will focus on relations with Kosovo, which broke away during a war in
1999 and declared independence in 2008. Serbia does not recognize its former
southern province as sovereign, but has struck a series of deals brokered by
the EU to try to regulate relations between the two.

and Western diplomats say implementation of the agreements has been piecemeal
at best on both sides, but the EU is keen to keep Serbia anchored in the
process of Western integration to counter what diplomats say is growing Russian
engagement in the Balkans.

am looking forward to the 14th [of December], when we can expect the chapters
to be open for more detailed negotiations,” EU foreign policy chief
Federica Mogherini said on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe in Belgrade.

talks will begin with chapters 35 and 32, on Kosovo and financial controls.

will be coming to Brussels with big expectations and the firm belief that
Serbia belongs to Europe,” Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said
after meeting Mogherini.

Vucic was
information minister at the tail end of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic’s
disastrous rule during the 1990s, when federal Yugoslavia collapsed in conflict
and Serbia was bombed by NATO to halt its killing and expulsion of ethnic
Albanians from Kosovo during a counterinsurgency war.

Once a
devoted ultranationalist, Vucic has rebranded himself as a pro-Western
reformer, but critics and some Western diplomats remain worried about freedom
of expression and the media in Serbia.

insists it will never recognize Kosovo, but it is likely to come under pressure
to do more to settle relations the nearer it gets to EU membership, a process
that will take years.

The EU
itself remains divided on Kosovo sovereignty, recognized by 23 of the bloc’s 28