The European Union (EU) top leaders agreed on Thursday to grant Serbia the EU candidate status.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy announced the decision at a press conference following the first day's EU spring summit.
Van Rompuy congratulated Serbia and encouraged the country to continue its reforms both in political and economic fields to reach the EU membership benchmarks.
He also urged the Serbian government to faithfully implement all agreements with Kosovo. He said the EU hoped both Belgrade and Pristina could carefully deal with the border issues to maintain the stability of the region.
Serbia applied for EU membership in 2009, and the Kosovo issue remained the main obstacle to its membership pursuit. Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008, but Belgrade still considers the territory a Serbian province.
Tensions in northern Kosovo rose last summer when Kosovo authorities ordered special police units to take over two border crossings with Serbia, only to meet strong resistance of local Serbs who set a security border post on fire and blocked the roads.