EU leaders examine Serbia's membership bid

Serbia's ambitions to join the European Union were the focus of the second and final day of an EU summit here Friday, with talks with the prospective member set to begin no later than January.

Leaders of the 27-nation bloc had worked into the early hours to stop Britain from throwing a spanner in the works to a tentative deal reached earlier on the EU's next trillion-euro budget.

The summit also agreed to deploy billions of euros in initiatives to combat record-high youth unemployment.

As government leaders convened for a second day of deliberations Friday, it was Serbia's EU membership that was set to top the agenda.

"I don't expect too long a meeting," Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen told reporters as he entered the meeting.

"All the big things have already been decided yesterday. We'll concentrate on other issues, (such as) enlargement," he said.

In spite of Europe's long and debilitating crisis, eastern European states continue to bid to join the bloc of 500 million people.

On Monday, Croatia will become its 28th EU member, the first new arrival to the club since Bulgaria and Romania in 2007.

Serbian premier Ivica Dacic has held out hopes of bringing the country into the EU fold within a quick four to five-year span.

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