The European Union's foreign ministers were to discuss pre-membership deals with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia and the establishment of closer economic and cultural ties with Russia during a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday, dpa reported.
EU officials were hoping that ministers would ask the two Western Balkan countries to sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), a precursor to full EU membership talks.
"We are working towards a signature today," said Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, ahead of the ministers' arrival in Luxembourg.
While the signature of Bosnia's SAA is widely seen as a done deal, Serbia's is hampered by opposition from the Netherlands, which insists that Belgrade must first show that it is cooperating fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague by handing over all remaining war-crimes suspects.
Officials were understood to be working on a compromise solution in Luxembourg that would involve Serbia's SAA not coming into effect until its full cooperation with the ICTY was proven.
Many EU ministers hope that the offer of the SAA carrot to Serbia ahead of the country's May 11 parliamentary elections will boost its pro-European forces in the vote.
EU ministers also planned to start talks on a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Russia.
The PCA covers relations on fields ranging from education and culture to energy and trade.
However, Lithuania has hitherto opposed the opening of talks in protest at Russia's closure of oil to its only refinery, and Moscow's recent decision to open relations with the breakaway Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Responses to latest developments in Myanmar, Zimbabwe and the Middle East were also on the ministers' official agenda.