April 9th, 2008 04:56 EST
Serbia savors EU backing for EU Membership
The European Union is urging member-nations to back steps necessary for eventual Serbian membership in the bloc.
Foreign policy chief Javier Solana says a pre-membership agreement should be signed ahead of Serbian parliamentary elections next month.
Solana told the European Parliament Tuesday in Brussels that Europe must send a clear signal that the Serbian people are wanted in the union.
He said the pre-membership Stabilization and Association Agreement would boost prospects for pro-Western candidates in the May 11 polls.
The Netherlands and Belgium have blocked a pre-membership pact with Belgrade, demanding first the arrest and transfer of wartime Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic. Both fugitives have been charged with war crimes during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and are thought to be hiding in the region.
Anti-Western sentiment has intensified in Serbia since the United States and most EU nations recognized Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia in February. Belgrade has responded by withdrawing its ambassadors from those countries.
The upcoming Serbian polls were triggered by the collapse of Belgrade's ruling coalition over Kosovo.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.