Brussels, 10 July 2014
Enhanced cooperation within
the Stabilisation and Association Process
Purpose, principles and composition/participation
This informal initiative is a forum of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. It aims at supporting them on their individual paths towards the EU as well as providing a political framework for coordination in accession-related areas which include a regional dimension. The European Commissioner for Enlargement and the Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) take part as observers. Representatives of other regional initiatives and organisations can be invited to attend meetings, depending on the issues discussed.
This is complementary to other existing regional initiatives and activities and does not duplicate them; it focuses on acquis- and other accession-related themes. The initiative fully acknowledges the key roles of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) as the political umbrella for regional cooperation in South-East Europe, as well as of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).
The activities take full account of the fact that the EU accession process is based inter alia on the principles of conditionality and own merits, which are in no way affected by them.
The added value of the initiative stems from the similarity of challenges and goals in the context of the EU accession process under the SAP. Exchange of experiences and peer reviews as well as coordination on relevant issues could contribute to boost the individual courses towards the EU, and help overcome problems which cannot be effectively addressed without closer regional cooperation. More specifically, added value could result from:
Political steer in order to inject momentum or initiate specific multilateral activities in areas related to the acquis and the accession process that have a regional dimension,
Exchange of information and experience on best practices in accession-related reforms, including peer review on the attainment of SEE 2020 goals,
Exchange of views and experience of the accession process, including accession negotiations,
Developing closer ties in the context of SAP conditionality on regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.
Meetings focus on topics from the accession process agenda, in principle one for each meeting. Topics are drawn from the enlargement policy priority areas, as set out in EU documents, notably in the annual Commission Enlargement Strategy papers.
At this stage, pertinent topics could be drawn from the following areas: (i) rule of law (with emphasis on combating organised crime), (ii) economic governance and SEE 2020, (iii) connectivity.
Examples of such topics:
Combatting organised crime and dismantling networks, dealing with human trafficking and trafficking of illicit goods (incl. drugs, weapons, counterfeited goods and euros). In this area, high-level political support is needed to ensure concrete follow-up and progress based on the preparatory work done for instance in the prosecutors' and police cooperation networks. This could be ensured through the ‘Enhanced cooperation within the Stabilisation and Association Process’.
Increasing regional capacity to deal with mixed migration flows, while at the same time ensuring the smooth functioning of visa-free regime with Schengen area. High-level political commitment is also crucial in these areas, where governments are often called to take tough decisions.
Close cooperation on common economic challenges to help boost competitiveness, promote growth and create jobs on their common path to the EU including in Agriculture. The SEE 2020 Strategy for Jobs and Prosperity in a European Perspective and the EUs new approach to economic governance, competitiveness and growth launched at the EBRD High-level meeting in London in February 2014 could be key reference points.
Regional trade - SEE 2020 targets and other CEFTA-related benchmarks and peer review.
Transport and energy infrastructures: strategic issues, sequence and priorities for specific segments covered by the overall regional priorities identified for instance through SEETO to ensure more coherence and better connectivity within the region and with the EU.
The initiative will have no permanent structures reflecting its informal nature. It meets in two formats: foreign ministers and economy/finance ministers, each in principle once a year on a rotational basis. Ministers can be accompanied by other national representatives competent for specific agenda items. Meetings are chaired by the hosting Minister.
All decisions and recommendations are adopted by consensus. The working language is English.
The European Commission reports on the initiative's activities to the EU Member States; so does the RCC Secretariat to the SEECP.
The RCC Secretariat ensures the technical/secretarial support for the initiative. Meetings will be prepared by the RCC and relevant regional organisations and initiatives on respective topics (CEFTA, Energy Community, SEETO, MARRI, ReSPA, WBIF etc.). These will also ensure follow up. Existing regional coordination mechanisms by national line ministries will not be affected and will be fully involved in the relevant activities. Implementation of decisions taken will remain with existing initiatives and bodies, under the monitoring and/or coordination of the RCC.