Stabilisation and Association Process
The European Union's policy towards the countries of the Western Balkans takes the form of the Stabilisation and Association Process launched at the Zagreb Summit in November 2000. The countries concerned are: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, including Kosovo as defined by resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council.
The process is intended to ensure peace and stability in the region by providing support for the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law and the development of a market economy. It places great stress on developing regional cooperation, e.g. by a free trade area and political dialogue.
The purpose of the Stabilisation and Association Process is to establish special relations between the countries concerned and the Union in exchange for reforms with a view to accession, which will involve aligning their legislation more closely with that of the Community. These countries are recognised as potential candidates for Union membership.
The Stabilisation and Association Process was strengthened at the Thessaloniki Summit in 2003, taking over elements of the accession process. It rests on:
- contractual relationships by means of bilateral Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA), the conclusion of which depends on the progress made by the countries within the process; in this connection, the evaluation of their application for membership will be based on the results concerning their compliance with the provisions, particularly on trade;
- trade relations at regional level and with the Union; the Union grants trade preferences to the Western Balkans countries;
- a financial instrument, the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) for the period 2007 - 2013 (replacing the CARDS programme for 2000 - 2006).
The Western Balkans countries that acquire candidate country status continue to benefit from certain aspects of the Stabilisation and Association process although they are engaged in the process of accession.