Serbia and Kosovo have struck a deal that could catapult Belgrade much closer to European Union membership.
Serbia’s refusal to recognise its former province as an independent state has so far been a major obstacle.
Now, EU officials say the former Yugoslav states have agreed a compromise on how Kosovo should be represented in regional meetings.
Leaders in Brussels called it “a major step forward”.
EU adviser at the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, Robert Cooper, said: “The EU, as it is based on the idea of wider regional cooperation, the more the governments communicate with each other, the better for everybody’s welfare and security.”
A decision on Serbia’s official EU membership candidacy could be taken next week.
It is possible the agreement might lead to talks on closer EU cooperation with Kosovo too.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said: “I can say that as the Rambouillet agreement brought freedom, as Ahtisaari’s Plan brought independence, this agreement in Brussels brings the opportunity of European Kosovo.”
Pristina has long relied on a NATO and EU security apparatus.
This latest deal means Kosovo will no longer be represented by a UN body at Balkan meetings, and will be able to sign agreements on its own account.