The European Union has accepted Macedonia as a candidate for membership, but said entry will not be considered until an enlargement strategy is in place.
EU leaders granted the Balkan nation candidate status after concluding budget talks in Brussels Saturday.
The leaders said Macedonia has made significant progress in meeting criteria for membership, but offered no timetable for considering the country's entry into the bloc.
They said they need to have a full debate on expansion, as sought by France, before considering new members.
Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski called the decision recognition of all his country has achieved in recent years.
EU Expansion Commissioner Olli Rehn praised the action as a political signal to the countries of the western Balkans that the union will build ties with those states if they fulfill EU requirements.
Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.