"Crucial week for Serbia in Brussels"

BELGRADE -- EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels, where they will on Tuesday set the dates of the first EU-Serbia conference and start of accession talks.

On the first day of the meeting, the ministers, as part of a Foreign Affairs Council meeting, will hear a brief report from the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton on the work of the Eulex mission, and then turn to Middle Eastern and African crisis spots and discuss the situation in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, at the beginning of a General Affairs Council meeting, Ashton will present to the ministers a detailed report on progress made in the process of normalization of Belgrade-Priština ties, and put forward a negotiating framework.

Although the latest round of the Belgrade-Priština dialogue, held on Friday, failed to yield an agreement on the implementation of the Brussels agreement in the field of judiciary, Belgrade expects an essentially positive report from Ashton.

Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić expects a positive decision to be made in Brussels on the start of Serbia - EU talks, and believes that a different solution would be a great injustice to Serbia, and that it would have a negative impact on the entire process under way in Brussels.

"I expect a positive decision and I would be very disappointed if the decision turns out to be different," Dačić said on Sunday.

Branko Ružić, Serbia's minister without portfolio in charge of European integration, said for Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) on Sunday that he expects the negotiations to begin no later than in January.

"Given the implementation of the Brussels agreement, we can expect the first intergovernmental conference on December 20, but this is less realistic. Otherwise, January 21 is certain," said Ružić.

The European Council decided in June that the Intergovernmental Conference should begin no later than January of next year.

Tanja Miščević, chief of Serbia's EU accession negotiating team, expects EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to submit to the Council of Ministers a report full of positive reviews, adding that Serbia is ready for the beginning of negotiations in December.

"I personally was ready for the first intergovernmental conference taking place as early as on December 20, but I will not mind if it is held on January 21," said Miščević.

The decision of the Council of Ministers, which will be officially announced on Tuesday, needs to be confirmed by the heads of state and government of the member states at the EU Summit in Brussels on December 19-20.