BELGRADE, Oct 10 (AFP): EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn Monday officially opened historic negotiations on closer ties between Serbia-Montenegro and the 25-member European Union.
"Today we are marking the start of the talks" on a stabilisation and association agreement with Serbia-Montenegro, Rehn told a ceremony in Belgrade.
The opening of the talks comes five years after a decade of wars and international isolation came to an end for Serbia-Montenegro with the ouster of then president Slobodan Milosevic.
"This is a big day for Serbia and Montenegro, whose citizens have waited for a long time," said the union's president, Svetozar Marovic.
Marovic said the Balkan union would try to bring about the handover of wanted war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague as soon as possible.
The extradition of the former Bosnian Serb general, who was indicted by The Hague almost 10 years ago over the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim males, is one of the key conditions for Serbia-Montenegro's EU integration.
The decision to approve Serbia-Montenegro for the talks on closer ties was made at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg a week ago.