European Union ministers agreed on Tuesday (June 25) in Luxembourg to start negotiations on membership with Serbia as a reward for improving relations with its former province Kosovo.

"We are recommending to the European Council that we set a date for the opening of negotiations with Serbia on its joining the EU. We are recommending that the first inter-governmental conference be held in January 2014 at the very latest," said Irish Foreign Affairs Minister, Eamon Gilmore.

"On Kosovo, we will be opening negotiations by adopting later this week a negotiating mandate for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Our recommendations today flow from the recent positive developments in the region. We heard from Cathy Ashton and Stefan Fule of the progress that has been made in implementing the agreements reached in the EU facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina," he said.