European ministers have given a green light for Montenegro to launch talks to join the European Union. Podgorica has apparently fulfilled demands for progress in the fight against corruption and organized crime.
The EU's 27 European affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg recommended on Tuesday that the bloc start formal negotiations with Montenegro for the Balkan country to join the union.
"Appreciate the Europe ministers' recommendation to open accession negotiations with Montenegro on Friday," EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule wrote on the micro-blogging website Twitter.
Official approval must still come from EU leaders, who will discuss the subject at a summit on Thursday. However, their approval is considered a formality in the wake of the recommendation. The membership talks would then begin the following day.
In December, the EU had put the beginning of talks on hold and told Montenegro it needed to show progress in combating corruption and organized crime.
Swedenhad led the resistance to starting talks.
"Organized crime in the Balkans is a threat to those countries primarily, but as a matter of fact to all of Europe," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told reporters ahead of the meeting in Luxembourg.
"Most of the drug networks of Europe are coming through the Balkans," he said. "They must understand the deep concern of Europe and that they will not be able to progress significantly without deeper measures against these networks."
ncy/mz (AFP, AP, dpa)