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Nov 07, 2007 15:47 EEST
November 7 (SeeNews) - The European Union initialed on Wednesday an accord on closer ties with Serbia, a first step towards eventual EU membership for the Balkans country.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Serbian deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic signed in Brussels the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA).
The SAA is a contractual agreement with the EU, which examines the legal, economic, industrial and social reforms that the country will have to introduce to meet European standards and create a free trade area. The EU also provides technical and financial support to help the partner country implement the agreement.
Serbia hopes after signing of the SAA to attain candidate status by the end of next year.
Poor cooperation with the U.N. war crimes tribunal has been the main barrier to the signing of the SAA.
Last month, the tribunal's chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte said Serbia's cooperation with the tribunal was still insufficient, insisting that Serbian authorities should arrest and transfer to the tribunal former Bosnian Serb army commander General Ratko Mladic.
In June, the EU resumed SAA talks with Serbia after two of the other most wanted fugitives from the confllict in the former Yugoslavia, General Zdravko Tolimir and Serbian police general Vlastimir Djordjevic, were arrested.
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