Serbian premier Ivica Dacic held out hopes of bringing the country into the EU fold within a quick four to five-year span Wednesday, a day after European Union ministers recommended that the bloc kick off membership talks by January.
"We are not keen on having these talks last 10 years, we hope in four or five years," Dacic said as he urged EU leaders to confirm the ministers' recommendation at a summit Friday.
The summit decision, which will be a milestone for the once pariah Balkan state, follows its capture of wanted war fugitives and an historic deal in April with its breakaway former province of Kosovo to mutually mend ties.
Dacic recalled that barely a few months ago when he first met his Kosovo counterpart for EU-brokered talks in October despite fierce nationalist opposition in both capitals, the meeting remained shrouded in secrecy.
"There's no doubt we have made a huge step forward," he said.
Dacic said he hoped that EU leaders would impose no new conditions on Belgrade's entry into the European club and pledged to continue efforts to normalise ties between Belgrade and Pristina.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who brokered the April peace deal, said that at the summit on Friday "I will be there to say Serbia has delivered and the EU needs to deliver."