Serbia’s prime minister has received the official report from the European Commission recommending that the country become a candidate to join the EU.
It is being seen as a reward for Serbia’s rounding up of war-crimes fugitives and the democratic reforms the country has introduced.
But there is no date set for accession talks to begin. The commission said relations between Serbia and neighbouring Kosovo must improve.
The Commissioner for EU enlargement, Stefan Füle said: ‘We made it absolutely clear that the European Union is not ready to import any problems, which means that the process of normalisation needs to be achieved within the period of accession negotiation.’
In Belgrade there was a demonstration by ultra-nationalist Serbs opposed to the EU, accusing President Boris Tadic of betrayal.
One protester said: ‘I don’t trust the European Union. They will continue to blackmail Serbs, especially over Kosovo.’
Another added: ‘It’s good news, but the question is if we will ever join. The EU are always demanding something.’
The EU has not demanded Serbian recognition of Kosovo’s breakaway, but it has insisted on good neighbourly relations with its former province.
Serbia has always said it will never recognise Kosovo as an independent state.