BRUSSELS, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Serbia is lauded for taking the steps needed to move closer to the European Union though the road ahead will be hard, an EU leader said Tuesday.
Serbia and the European Union started formal association talks Tuesday. Stefan Fule, enlargement commissioner for the EU, said efforts taken to normalize relations with Kosovo was a key step in ensuring a stronger relationship with Europe.
"Starting negotiations means entering a very demanding phase," he said in a statement Tuesday. "Hard work will be needed [and] many challenges lie ahead."
Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who helped lead the reform agenda, told the BBC moving closer to the EU would help Serbia emerge from isolation brought on by bloody conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s.
"If we don't change ourselves, if we don't do something regarding rule of law, if we don't do many other changes in other social spheres, we won't be successful in the future," he said in an interview published Tuesday.
It will take several years before Serbia and the EU complete negotiations to conclude. Fuel said he was confident, however, that Serbia was up to the task.