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Serbia granted candidate status for EU membership

Serbia has become a candidate to join the European Union, say leaders.

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European leaders pose for a family picture before the first working session of a two-day EU summit on March 1, 2012 at the EU headquarters in Brussels. The summit gathering Union's chiefs of state will focus on signing a budgetary pact and to discuss Serbia's EU candidacy. (JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)

European Union leaders granted Serbia candidate status after objections from Romania were withdrawn, reported the BBC.

A draft of conclusions from the EU summit in Brussels said EU leaders "granted candidate status to Serbia," after Belgrade implemented a series of democratic reforms and captured suspects wanted for war crimes, according to the BBC. Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic were arrested last year.

Romania's objection to Serbian candidacy stemmed from concern over the 30,000 Romanian-speaking Vlachs in Serbia, delaying Serbia's candidacy which was originally expected on Tuesday.

As he was arriving at the summit on Thursday, Romanian President Traian Basescu said the issue had been resolved, stating, "Serbia is already in," according to the Associated Press.

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The AFP said Serbia's candidacy, if it is officially confirmed on Friday, will mark a historic leap for the country that only 13 years ago was bombarded by NATO forces.

Serbia, under strongman Slobodan Milosevic's control, ignited wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, causing tens of thousands of deaths.

Bloomberg noted, however, that the process towards becoming a member still takes multiple years with no guarantee of admission. Serbia, the largest of the ex-Yugoslavian countries, has a 24.4 percent unemployment rate with growth projected to shrink to 0.5 percent in 2012, from 1.9 percent in 2011.

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Here is a video report from Euronews on the proceedings:

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120301/eu-serbia-candidate-membership