The European Parliament approved on January 21 the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the European Union and Kosovo, which is seen as an important first formal step in Kosovo’s integration into the European Union.
The SAA with Kosovo was signed on October 27, 2015, in Strasbourg and was ratified by the parliament in Pristina in November. It is a contractual agreement, which does not need to be ratified by individual EU member states.
The agreement will strengthen EU-Kosovo political dialogue, trade relations, and fosters closer cooperation in many sectors, including energy, the environment, justice and home affairs. It also opens the way for Kosovo to be integrated into a market of over 500 million people.
The agreement was approved by MEPs by 486 votes in favour, 102 against and with 81 abstentions, the European Parliament said in a statement.
"Now the agreement has to enter into force without delay. This will give a major positive signal to Kosovo's citizens and economy. Implementing the agreement will help institutionalise the reform process. It will also bring new possibilities for Kosovo to strengthen relations with the EU and thus contribute to the stabilisation of the whole region,” rapporteur Ulrike Lunacek said in the statement.
The parliament’s approval opens the way for the Council of Ministers to formally conclude the agreement and enable it to enter into effect within few months.
The agreement also has provisions aimed at promoting EU standards in areas such as competition, procurement, intellectual property, consumer protection and good governance.
The government of Kosovo has welcomed the ratification of the SAA with EU, and urged all political parties to work on the implementation of the agreement.
The Kosovan government said on December 16 that it has approved the National Programme for the Implementation of the SAA with the EU, with the programme consisting of three main elements: the political criteria, economic criteria and European standards or alignment of Kosovo's legislation with the EU acquis.
In addition, Kosovo expects to obtain a recommendation for EU visa-free travel for its citizens, after meeting the last eight benchmarks as recommended by the European Commission in December 2015.