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Serbia granted candidate status for EU membership

European Union leaders granted Serbia candidate status after objections from Romania were withdrawn, reported the BBC.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

Greece bailout: what now?

Today's Greek deal was a long time coming. Here's what you need to know.
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The Europe sculpture of Belgian artist May Claerhout outside the European Parliament building on November 17, 2011 in Brussels, Belgium. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

For months now, Greece has been at the center of Europe's exhausting debt and euro crisis.

Figuring out what to do about the mess in Athens has, of course, caused fits from Berlin, to Paris, to Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, London and beyond.

So today's bailout — while by no means a cure — is a welcome development for everyone involved. And due to Europe's central role in the global economy, that means just about everyone on earth.

But that happy note aside, it's important to keep Europe's challenges in perspective. 

GlobalPost's Paul Ames put it best:

Now all (the EU) has to do is help the country pull out of a five-year recession, get the one-in-five unemployed Greeks back to work and make sure that Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy don't end up sharing a similar fate.

That will be no easy task.

As GlobalPost's Ken Maguire reported today from Athens, plenty of Greeks feel like sacrificial lambs — enduring economic pain so the EU can save the euro.

“Psychologically, I am close to collapse because I am concerned about my family,” Dimitris Paras, a 38-year-old investment banker who was laid off one month ago told Maguire. “Now, I either work for a coffee shop or go abroad.”

“There will be a point when people won’t take it anymore,” he added.

Even more troubling — for European unity, anyway — is a growing divide about where to go from here.

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Oil prices rise again on Iran worries

Crude prices move higher again, this time thanks to the European Union.
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Iranian Army soldiers stand guard on a military speed boat during the 'Velayat-90' navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran on December 28, 2011. (ALI MOHAMMADI/AFP/Getty Images)

There was another roil for oil today. And, once again, you can blame rising tensions with Iran.

The European Union announced a preliminary agreement to ban Iranian oil imports, though EU diplomats did not say when the embargo would take place. 

“We want to tighten sanctions on Iran — the things that have been mentioned are the oil sector and the financial sector,” EU spokesman Michael Mann told Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

The US State Department welcomed the move, which follows Iran's threat last week to close the Straits of Hormuz, a key oil shipping lane:

“This is consistent with tightening the noose around Iran economically,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a briefing in Washington, as reported by Bloomberg. “The place to get Iran’s attention is in the oil sector.”

For its part, Iran says it can handle this latest threat.

"We could very easily replace those customers," S. M. Qamsari, International Director of the National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) told Reuters over the phone

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Croatia signs treaty to join European Union

“Croatia had to overcome war to join the European Union, and that is not only a Croatian triumph, but the triumph of European peacemaking,” Croatian President Ivo Josipovic said, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.
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