(dpa) - Six weeks after they agreed to disagree on recognizing Kosovo's independence, the European Union's 27 foreign ministers are to hold talks Saturday on how to woo the states of the Western Balkans into a closer relationship with Europe.
"I will present the strategy and measures adopted recently by the European Commission for the Western Balkans. I trust that ministers will support our basic approach," EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said ahead of the informal meeting in Slovenia.
"This year can be a decisive year for the Western Balkans ... I'm very convinced we can accelerate the process of European integration this year," Rehn said.
EU ministers have long maintained that the future of the Western Balkan region lies within the bloc. All the states of the region except Kosovo are currently involved in talks on EU membership.
But talks are dogged with difficulties, especially over Kosovo. EU member states have no common position on recognizing Kosovo, but the overwhelming majority have accepted its independence.
That has outraged Serbia, which sees the move as an illegal attempt to dismember it and has threatened to break off relations with those EU states which recognized Kosovo.
Some EU members have therefore pushed for Serbia to be granted a fast track to membership.
However, that initiative has been blocked by Belgium and the Netherlands, who insist that it cannot start until Serbia arrests and hands over war-crimes suspects Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic to international prosecutors.
Relations are further strained by the presence of Serb police officers in northern Kosovo.
EU ministers insist that Kosovo cannot be divided and that the only institutions legally entitled to work there are those of the UN, EU and Kosovo government.
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania are less sensitive issues politically. However, corruption and political instability there remain problematic, with Rehn describing reforms in the region as "uneven."
The foreign ministers of all the Western Balkan states are expected to attend the meeting, as is Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.
Also on Saturday, ministers are set to discuss the crisis in Tibet.
On Friday, they ruled out the possibility of boycotting the forthcoming Olympic Games in Beijing as a response.