What is the SAA?
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States on the one hand, and the Republic of Serbia on the other (the SAA) entered into force on September 1, 2013. The SAA establishes rules for a comprehensive partnership between Serbia and the EU with a view to supporting Serbia’s progress towards accession into the EU.
The negotiations on the SAA between the European Union and Serbia 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 European Council decision to conclude this agreement was adopted on 22 July 2013, paving the way for its entry into force on September 1, 2013. 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.
The SAA and the Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related Matters
Serbia and the EU have already reached a very high level of trade integration through the implementation of the Interim Agreement covering trade and trade-related matters that was voluntarily implemented by Serbia starting from January 2009 and that formally entered into force in February 2010.
Provisions of the Interim Agreement will continue to be smoothly implemented as part of the SAA with no changes whatsoever. As per article 139 of the SAA, provisions relating to free movement of goods, customs, competition, state aid, intellectual property rights and other relevant provisions that were put into effect through the Interim Agreement will continue to be applied starting from the date of entry into force of the Interim Agreement, not the SAA. This means that the dynamics and deadlines specified in the Interim Agreement and relating to liberalisation of trade and alignment with the EU legislation in the above mentioned areas will not be affected by the entry into force of the SAA.
The SAA is going beyond trade matters
Entry into force of the SAA will reinforce the economic benefits of the Interim Agreement. It will lead to the setting up of a much more complete formal institutional structure, covering not only trade and trade-related matters but also political dialogue, regional cooperation, workers, establishment, supply of services, movement of capital, approximation of laws and law enforcement, justice, freedom and security, numerous cooperation policies as well as financial cooperation.
For instance, 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 encourage companies to invest and create jobs in Serbia. By encouraging Serbia to harmonise its standards with the EU ones, it will also facilitate the ability of companies from Serbia 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.
Benefits for Serbian citizens
By allowing more competition, implementation of the SAA is expected to generate more variety and higher quality of goods on offer and a decrease in prices . It will ensure a level playing field in all sectors, including Government procurement. For instance, gradual opening of the market for public tenders to the EU companies will result in more competition in public procurement procedures and will consequently bring better value for money to Serbian tax payers – better public works, supplies or services with less tax payers’ money.
By bringing Serbia closer to EU standards in many crucially important areas like justice, rule of law or environment, the SAA will generate very concrete benefits to every-day lives of Serbian citizens.
Benefits for companies
The SAA will contribute to improving the business environment in Serbia, ensuring harmonisation with the EU standards in the areas such as free movement of capital, public procurement, standardisation, right of establishment, supply of services. These policy changes will provide a clearer, safer and more predictable framework for investors and businesses. both current and future. Entry into force of the SAA will raise standards of doing business for Serbian companies, gradually preparing them to compete with the EU companies on the Single Market and increasing their competitiveness in the long run.