Brussels, 31 August 2013
EU and Serbia: enhanced cooperation rules enter into force
Serbia is making one more step forward on its way to the EU membership. On 1 September the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the European Union and Serbia enters into force, bringing concrete benefits in trade relations and advancing the accession process in general. Serbia has already built a positive track record in implementing obligations of the SAA through smooth implementation of the Interim Agreement on trade and trade related matters, an important parameter considered when taking the decision to open accession negotiations in June.
"Today is a milestone in Serbia's path towards the EU, as well as a good deal for citizens on both sides. Serbia now has a comprehensive framework in place to move closer to the EU and to prepare for its future participation in the Single Market, with all the benefits it offers to business and citizens", said European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle.
The agreement sets out the rules for a comprehensive partnership between Serbia and the EU, which will notably foster free trade between both sides. It leads to the setting up of a much more complete formal institutional structure, covering not only trade and trade related matters but also political dialogue, justice and home affairs, innovation, research, electronic communications, media and social policy, transport, environment and energy, and regional development.
The SAA will also help Serbia implement EU standards in key areas such as competition and state aid rules, intellectual property, public procurement and consumer protection. This will allow Serbia to eventually align its legislation to the whole body of EU standards, thus creating a new impetus for the Serbian economy as well as additional opportunities for the EU companies.
Finally, the SAA will further reinforce the already clearly visible positive benefits of the Interim Agreement. Serbian export to the EU grew by 32.5 % in 2010 and 14.9% in 2011. Moreover, during the first 11 months of 2012, Serbia exports to the EU grew by 4.8% and its imports from the EU grew by 9.2%. Last but not least, Serbia has seen its trade surplus in agricultural products with the EU grow from € 200 million in 2009 to almost € 500 million in 2011. Given the difficult economic context, these figures are not only positive but show the enormous economic impact of the EU accession path.
The Stabilisation and Association Agreements is an instrument how the EU supports Serbia's progress towards accession. The agreement fosters mutual cooperation and promotes regional cooperation.
The negotiations on the SAA started in November 2005 and this agreement was signed in April 2008. Prior to entering into force, it was ratified by Serbia and by the EU Member States. The Council decision to conclude this agreement was adopted on 22 July 2013, paving the way for the entry into force of this agreement on 1 September 2013.
All the trade and trade related provisions of the SAA were already included in an Interim Agreement (IA) which came into force in February 2010. The IA effectively initiated the creation of a free trade area between the EU and Serbia.
Similar SAAs have been in force since 2004 with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 2005 with Croatia, 2009 with Albania and 2010 with Montenegro.
What will the SAA change?
What advantages will it bring to Serbia?
Economically, it will reinforce the economic benefits of the Interim Agreement (see last paragraph of the Press Release for figures). The new provisions on free movement of workers, right of establishment, supply of services and movement of capital will provide a clearer and safer framework for investors and will contribute to improving the business environment. This will notably encourage EU companies to invest and create jobs in Serbia. By encouraging Serbia to harmonise its standards will the EU ones, it will also facilitate the ability of its companies to compete on the EU market.
The implementation of this comprehensive agreement will facilitate the gradual alignment of Serbia's legislation with the whole body of EU Law and standards, thus creating new impetus for the Serbian economy in attracting investments. It will provide Serbia with the overall framework to move closer to the EU and to prepare the country for its future participation in the EU single market. As such, it is an important step in Serbia's path towards EU Accession.
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