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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Kosovo - Remarks by Johannes Hahn on behalf of the HR/VP at the EP Plenary

Strasbourg, 20 January 2016

President, Honourable Members,

 

Let me start by thanking you for your support for the continuing development of EU-Kosovo relations. I also want to thank the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committees - and rapporteur Ulrike Lunacek in particular – for their support.

 

Today's vote on the Stabilisation and Association Agreement we negotiated with Kosovo is testament to this progress.

The SAA is a milestone in EU-Kosovo relations and of critical importance for the future of Kosovo and the Western Balkans.

 

The Agreement is the first formal contractual relationship that ties the European Union and Kosovo together. It allows Kosovo to join the rest of the region in sharing the benefits of deepening political and economic interdependence, and sharing in the common European perspective that makes peace, stability and prosperity our joint goal. The Agreement will help Kosovo with much needed economic reform, underpinned by the rule of law.

This should ensure a more predictable business environment leading to much needed growth and jobs. The Agreement helps establish a stable legal framework and gradual approximation with EU laws and standards. It also promotes the free movement of goods, services and capital, and envisages higher standards and increased choice and lower prices for Kosovo citizens. It should stimulate Kosovo's progress in the area of transport and energy, as it foresees the gradual integration into Europe's energy markets and the development of quality infrastructure.

 

The Agreement should also strengthen regional cooperation. Under its terms, Kosovo commits itself to the visible and sustainable improvement in relations with Serbia. This is an essential principle of our Agreement. The continuation of the EU-facilitated Dialogue with Serbia is therefore a legal obligation. Kosovo will need to implement the agreements it has reached and continue to work towards further agreements. As we have seen over the last few months, this sometimes involves taking difficult decisions and the need for compromise.

 

Finally, I want to underline that the Agreement includes provisions that commit Kosovo to high international standards in terms of respect for democratic principles. This is of particular relevance to the challenges Kosovo is facing at the moment. It means that the institutions set up to ensure democratic government and the rules that allow these institutions to do their work should be respected. It also means there can be no obstruction to free and transparent political discourse. Obstruction and violence have no place in a democratic system.

 

Allow me to use this opportunity to call on Kosovo's politicians to engage in a free political exchange to solve their differences in a way that is worthy of the country's European perspective; without obstruction, without violence and without threats and intimidation.

 

President, Honourable Members,

 

Allow me to thank you once more for your support. I look forward to the debate.

SPEECH/16/122


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