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IP/10/731

Brussels, 14 June 2010

Commission welcomes Council's decision to start the ratification process of the Stabilisation and Association agreement with Serbia

The Council decided on 14 June 2010 to unblock the ratification process of the Stabilisation and Association agreement (SAA) between the EU and Serbia. Recalling in the Council Conclusions that cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is an essential element of the SAA, Ministers agreed to submit the agreement to their respective parliaments for ratification, as well as to the European Parliament for its approval.

Commissioner Füle has stated that “the decision brings Serbia another step closer to the EU, putting our relation on a strong legally binding and institutional basis”. He has further added that he is “looking forward to the Council making an equally important decision on requesting the Commission to prepare an opinion on Serbia's membership application”.

Background

The negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Serbia were launched in October 2005 and the agreement was signed in April 2008. However, the Council decided that the ratification, as well as the implementation of the Interim Agreement of the SAA, were subject to Serbia’s progress on ICTY cooperation. Following ICTY Prosecutor’s positive report to the UN Security Council in December 2009, Council agreed to unblock the Interim Agreement which subsequently entered into force on 1 February 2010. At the same time the Ministers decided to unblock the ratification process this June if Serbia maintained its cooperation with ICTY. The decision today implies that the Member States launch their internal ratification procedures for the SAA.

Serbia, together with all the Western Balkan countries, has a clear European perspective, reconfirmed at successive European Councils.

A SAA represents a far-reaching contractual relationship between the EU and Serbia, entailing mutual rights and obligations. A SAA is a binding Treaty acting as a catalyst for reforms. The full implementation of a SAA represents for each Western Balkan country an essential step towards eventual integration into the EU.

Once in force, the SAA will provide the contractual framework for relations between the EU and Serbia during the pre-accession period and covers areas such as:

- Political dialogue and regional cooperation;

- Free trade agreement;

- Approximation of Serbian legislation to the EU acquis, including precise rules in the fields of competition, intellectual property rights and public procurement;

- Wide-ranging cooperation in all areas of Community policies, including in the area of justice and home affairs.


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