BRUSSELS - EU foreign ministers approved Monday the next step on Bosnia’s tortured road to membership after its fractious politicians agreed a series of reforms demanded by the bloc.

Bosnian political leaders settled long-standing differences last month over a proposed Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Brussels, paving the way for the country to submit a formal membership bid after years of deadlock. The 28 European Union foreign ministers said the pact could now go ahead but warned Bosnia it will have to meet commitments to bring the country up to EU norms on human rights, democracy and political and economic freedoms if it wants to actually join the bloc.

“Meaningful progress on the implementation of the agenda for reforms ... will be necessary for a membership application to be considered by the European Union,” a statement said.

EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini visited Bosnia last month to highlight her commitment to the country’s future in the union.

“This is the decision on behalf of many in Bosnia-Hercegovina who (want) the country to move forward on its path towards the European Union,” Mogherini said after the Bosnian parliament approved the reform package.

Disputes between politicians representing the country’s three main ethnic groups - Croats, Muslims and Serbs - have blocked key economic and social reforms and left Bosnia lagging behind other Balkan states on the path to EU membership. It is the only country in the region that has yet to apply officially for the status of a EU candidate country.