Bosnia to begin talks on EU entrance

Bosnia is ready for launching talks on building closer ties with the European Union, a step toward eventual EU membership, Bosnia's chief negotiator said Tuesday. The talks for a "stabilization and association agreement," considered a stepping stone to full membership, were scheduled to open Wednesday in Sarajevo.

The EU team will be headed by director of the Office for Western Balkans in the EU Enlargement Commission, Reinhardt Priebe. EU foreign ministers authorized the start of the talks in November, a decade after the Balkan nation was ravaged by Europe's worst fighting since World War II.

Igor Davidovic, Bosnia's chief negotiator, was quoted as saying by the Sarajevo Dnevni Avaz newspaper that his team is ready. "This will be the first official round of talks after we opened the process in November," Davidovic said.

However, the foreign ministers warned that Bosnia's three communities, the Bosniacs, Serbs and Croats, need to agree on more reforms of the country's unwieldy postwar government system if Bosnia is expected to make rapid progress in the negotiations.

The agenda at Wednesday's meeting will include general issues, political dialogue, regional cooperation, as well as political and financial cooperation with the European Union. The key part of the talks related to issues of free trade and economic links with the EU, will be treated only in later rounds of talks.

Bosnia has lagged behind the other former Yugoslav nations in drawing closer to the EU. Slovenia joined the bloc in 2004; Croatia started formal membership talks last October; Macedonia has already concluded a stabilization and association agreement and Serbia-Montenegro started negotiations on a similar pre-membership deal last November, reports the AP. N.U.