Stabilisation and association agreement
What is the SAA?
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) is an international treaty, which entered into force on 1 September 2013, thus granting the Republic of Serbia the status of an associated country to the European Union.The two most significant commitments that our country has taken by signing this Agreement are to establish a free trade zone and alignment of legislation with EU law.
How long did the SAA negotiations last between Serbia and the EU?
On 10 October 2005, in the Palace of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, a formal session was held, marking the start of negotiations between the European Union and Serbia and Montenegro on the signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, which represents the first step towards EU integration.The negotiations were concluded on 10 September 2007 in Brussels, with the completion of the fifth round of technical negotiations between Serbia and the EU, and on 7 November of the same year the SSA was initialled. Later, on 29 April 2008, the SAA and the accompanying Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related Matters (ITA) were signed.The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia ratified both documents on 9 September 2008.
How was the ratification of the SAA conducted?
On 14 June 2010, two years after the signing, the Council of Ministers of the European Union decided to unblock the process of ratification of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Serbia.The decision was made after the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY Serge Brammertz briefed the EU ministers that he was satisfied with Serbia's cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The European Parliament ratified the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia on 19 January 2011, while the ratification process in the Member States of the European Union concluded on 18 June 2013 after Lithuania’s ratification.
Will Croatia be required to ratify the SAA after joining the EU?
Despite the fact that Croatia became a member of the EU on 1 July 2013, this country will not ratify the SAA with Serbia, but only the “Protocol on the adaptation of the Interim Trade Agreement and the SAA to the accession of Croatia to the EU”, which is currently under negotiations.
Which bodies are responsible for the implementation of the SAA?
With the entry into force of the SAA, three new joint bodies were established for its implementation:
1. The Stabilisation and Association Council is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Agreement on the highest political level.It is composed of the representatives of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, on the side of the EU, and of ministers in the Government of the Republic of Serbia.The primary concern of the Council is to resolve outstanding issues that have arisen during the implementation of the Agreement.
2. The Stabilisation and Association Committee assists the Stabilisation and Association Council in carrying out its work.The Committee is composed of the representatives of the European Commission, on the one hand, and the representatives of the Government of Serbia, on the other, at the expert level.The Committee represents a key body that will deal with the implementation of the Agreement and further specifying its provisions.
3. The Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee was formed as a forum in which the members of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and the European Parliament can meet and exchange opinions.
What are the priority areas in which the national legislation will be aligned with the EU acquis?
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement provides for the commitment of the Republic of Serbia to, within the agreed timeframes, align domestic legislation with regulations that fall within the acquis of the European Community, i.e. the European Union.Given the size of the EU acquis, priority areas have been established, and represent those that have a direct impact on the creation of a free trade zone between the EU and Serbia.
Accordingly, alignment starts from the following areas:protection of competition and control of state aid allocation (subsidies), intellectual property rights, public procurement, standardisation and consumer protection.With the entry into force of the SAA, the obligation of alignment is extended to other areas of the EU acquis.
When is a free trade zone between Serbia and the EU established?
The Interim Agreement, whose implementation started in January 2009, created a free trade zone between Serbia and the EU for a period of six years.The timeframe for the liberalisation of trade was determined in accordance with the ability of Serbian industry and agriculture to adapt to free trade, but also with Serbia’s desire to complete reforms and accede to the European Union at the quickest rate.This period was defined also bearing in mind the timeframes that have been agreed by other countries in the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Process (Macedonia 10 years, Albania 10, Croatia six, Bosnia and Herzegovina six and Montenegro five years).
The commitment of Serbia lies in the gradual elimination of customs duties on goods originating from the European Union during a transitional period of six years, which ended on 1 January 2014.Certain strategic agricultural products contained in Annex IIId, which retain customs protection until Serbia joins the EU, have been exempted from this.On the other hand, by this agreement, the European Union confirmed free access for Serbian goods to the EU market, which has been free since 2001.
At what pace is the trade between Serbia and the EU being liberalised?
The pace of liberalisation and the degree of protection depends on the degree of sensitivity of products affecting the industry of Serbia.Three groups of industrial products have been defined, according to the sensitivity of liberalisation, which will be liberalised after a period of three, five or six years.For products that are not on these tariffs lists, customs duties were eliminated as soon as the implementation of the Interim Agreement commenced in 2009.It has been ensured that key sectors of the domestic industry (such as the car industry, toys, footwear, ceramics ...) remain under a high degree of protection during the five or six years transitional period.
When will the customs duties on imports of agricultural products from the EU be eliminated?
The elimination of customs duties on agricultural products, processed agricultural products, fish and fishery products will also be achieved gradually over a transitional period of six years, while maintaining tariff protection for certain products (about 20 percent of its products, Annex IIId) after the transition period.It was agreed that sensitive products such as meat, milk and cereals remain at a high degree of protection during the five-year transitional period.The retention of seasonal protection for a number of sensitive products, fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers (Annex IIIc), has been ensured.
Serbia has provided quota for export of 180.000 tons of sugar and 8.700 tons of beef annually.For the first time, Serbia has provided a guaranteed annual quota for the export of wine amounting to 63.000 hectolitres of wine, which will enable investments in this sector.The negotiations resulted in quotas for the export of 15 tons of trout and 60 tons of carp from our country to the EU.
What are the other areas of cooperation regulated by the SSA?
Through this agreement, the European Union and Serbia confirm that they will collaborate in many areas such as social cooperation, education and training, cultural cooperation, information and communication, transportation, energy, environment, research and technological development, which will enable Serbia access to European Union technological and scientific development programmes that are necessary for the sake of the overall development of the country and stopping “brain drain” and emigration of young people.
In which period will competition rules apply to public enterprises?
Serbia undertakes the obligation that within three years after the entry into force of the Agreement it will apply competition rules to public enterprises and open them up for competition from the European Union, which is the timeframe that will enable these enterprises to adapt to market competition.
What are the benefits of the SAA?
- The SAA was one of the necessary steps towards the abolition of visas for Serbian citizens because every country that wishes to be on the “White Schengen List” must have such an agreement ratified.
- Greater product safety and consumer protection are the prerequisite to avoid serious consequences for the health of the population.Serbia regularly receives information about unsafe products withdrawn from the EU market through the RAPEX system.
- Lower product prices and substantially more choices due to trade liberalisation with the EU. Before signing the SAA, trade between the EU and Serbia was regulated through the Autonomous Trade Measures, i.e. a unilateral declaration by the EU that the Union could amend at any time.The SAA poses a contractual commitment for both Serbia and the EU and any eventual changes are made by consensus of both sides. Serbia and Serbian producers have been given access to a market of 490 million.This has resulted in a constant increase in exports from Serbia and a reduction in the trade deficit in trade with the EU.
- Giving a clear signal to investors about the stability of the situation in the country - harmonisation of national legislation with EU law, conditions for investment and business are becoming recognisable and predictable to foreign investors.
- The signing of the SAA is a necessary step towards acquiring the status of candidate for membership, thus creating conditions for opening the remaining 3 components of the IPA pre-accession fund (rural development, regional development and human resources development), as well as opportunities for the use of significantly larger EU funds.
- SAA is a legal basis for the improvement of cooperation between Serbia and the EU in a number of areas:economic and commercial policy, statistics, banking, insurance and financial services, auditing and financial control, promotion and protection of investments, industrial cooperation, small and medium-sized enterprises, tourism, agriculture and agro-industrial sector, fishery, customs, taxation, social cooperation, education and training, cultural cooperation, collaboration in the audiovisual field, information society, electronic communications networks and services, information and communications, transport, energy, nuclear safety, environment, research and technological development, regional and local development and public administration.