The European Union signed on October 27 2015 a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo, opening the way for reforms and trade and investment opportunities in the country.
The agreement was signed in spite of five out of 28 EU member states not recognising Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, as a sovereign country.
For the EU, the agreement was signed by the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and by European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn.
For Kosovo, it was signed by prime minister Isa Mustafa and minister of European integration and chief negotiator Bekim Çollaku.
Mogherini said that the agreement opened a new phase in the EU-Kosovo relationship.
“It represents an important contribution to stability and prosperity in Kosovo and the region at large. I am looking forward to its coming into force,” Mogherini said.
Hahn said that the agreement would help Kosovo make much needed reforms and will create trade and investment opportunities.
“It will put Kosovo on the path of a sustainable economic growth and can lead to much needed jobs for its citizens, especially the young,” Hahn said.
The EU proposed SAA negotiations with Kosovo after the country signed a major agreement on the normalisation of relations with Serbia in 2012. The SAA was negotiated between October 2013 and May 2014, was initialled in July 2014 and the Council of the EU agreed to its signature on October 22 2015. Following consent by the European Parliament, the SAA is expected to enter into force in the first half of 2016.
Once in force, the SAA will establish a contractual relationship that entails mutual rights and obligations and covers a wide variety of sectors, the European Commission said on October 27.
“The SAA focuses on respect for key democratic principles and core elements that are at the heart of the EU’s single market.”
The SAA will establish an area that allows for free trade and the application of European standards in other areas such as competition, state aid and intellectual property. It will also help the implementation of reforms designed to achieve the adoption of European standards by Kosovo, the Commission said. Other provisions cover political dialogue, co-operation in a wide variety of sectors ranging from education and employment to energy, the environment and justice and home affairs.
“The European Union will continue to support Kosovo’s progress on its European path through the stabilisation and association process, the policy designed by the EU to foster co-operation with the Western Balkan countries as well as regional co-operation. Stabilisation and Association Agreements are a core component of this process,” the Commission said.
In order to support the necessary reforms, the EU makes available Pre-accession Assistance to the Western Balkans and Turkey amounting to about 11.7 billion euro over the period 2014-2020, of which 645.5 million euro is allocated to Kosovo.
The SAA has the same structure and content of the agreements of all countries in the region and includes all the elements of a comprehensive political co-operation, economic co-operation between Kosovo and the European Union. The SAA is the first contractual agreement between Kosovo and the European Union.
Earlier, speaking at a meeting of the Kosovo cabinet, Mustafa said, “for us it is one of most important agreements we are achieving in this period, and it is a great success of the Republic of Kosovo.
“With this, we manage to create a contractual relationship with the European Union for the first time. With the agreement is also defined territory of the Republic of Kosovo in which are implemented the rules of the European Union and we develop negotiations with the European Union in the process of our EU membership, which in a way defines the recognition, the role that the European Union will have towards Kosovo in particular.”
Çollaku said that there would be economic benefits, which means market liberalisation with the European Union as a whole, except for some specific products included in the agreement, increased direct investment in Kosovo.
Mustafa said, “we will also have benefits in terms of the export of wine and other products, because we increase the quota through this agreement and our requests that we had for a long period of time are being achieved by the European Union”.