Serbia, EU sign SAA in Luxembourg

The European Union has today in Luxembourg signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with Serbia.

Source: B92, Beta, Tanjug
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The document was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Božidar Đelić, DS, on behalf of Serbia, EU's Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and EU chair Slovenia's Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel.

The signing was attended by President Boris Tadić, DS, and Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić, DS.

The ceremony was also attended by EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the foreign ministers from the 27 member states.

Previously, they agreed to allow Serbia to sign the agreement, initialed last November.

The document was today signed in the form in which it was initialed, but its implementation will depend on the Council of Minister's appraisal of whether Serbia has achieved full cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.

The Council today welcomed the singing of the SAA and the Temporary Agreement in conclusions issued for the press.

"In line with this, the ministers have agreed to send the text of the SAA for ratification to their parliaments, while the Union has decided to implement the Temporary Agreement as soon as it concludes that Serbia is fully cooperating with the Hague Tribunal," the announcement said.

However, Jeremić told B92 earlier that the agreement would come into force immediately, while the actual implementation "will depend on the outcome of the May 11 elections in Serbia".

But Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Bart Rijs confirmed for Tanjug that the deal will not be implemented automatically.

"We will sign the SAA and the adjoining agreement, but the Council has just reached a decision that the documents would not be automatically put in effect," he said.

The agreement's ratification and implementation will begin only once the Council has decided that Serbia has realized a full cooperation with the Hague, the Dutch spokesman added.

Dimitrij Rupel told reporters earlier in the day that the implementation of the temporary accompanying document – which was signed together with the SAA and which makes it possible for Serbia to use almost 90 percent of the benefits the SAA offers even before all the EU member countries ratify the document – depends on the Council's assessments of the fulfillment of Serbia's cooperation with the Hague

Also earlier in the day, spokeswoman Javier Solana, Cristina Gallach, told the state television RTS that "Serbia's citizens should know that the European Union wants close relations with Serbia".

According to Gallach, "this is an important message that should be sent out now", because the issue of the European Union is "so strongly present in the pre-election process".

Back in Belgrade, a bitter row is developing over the signing today – the details are in a separate article.

Even though the outgoing government initialed the agreement last November and gave authority to Đelić to sign the agreement, ministers of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and New Serbia (NS), led by DSS leader and Prime Minster Vojislav Koštunica, are strongly opposed to the signing, saying it effectively recognizes the Kosovo Albanians' unilateral declaration independence.

Solana: Important day

"Today is an important day for Serbia and for the European Union," Javier Solana said, according to a statement from his office this Tuesday.

"The signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia is a powerful signal to the people of Serbia that their future lies in Europe. The people of Serbia will share the security, prosperity and freedom of movement that is already enjoyed today by the citizens of the European Union."

"Achieving this objective will take hard work and tough decisions, and it will take some time. However, the signing of the SAA is an important milestone on the way, bringing you significantly closer to that goal. Now it is fundamental that Serbia remains on track and firmly committed to the values which underlie the European project," Solana said.

"Today is also an important day for the European Union. Serbia is an enormously important partner. It has great economic, cultural and intellectual potential and this can make it a powerful motor for the progress of the entire region. Cooperation and genuine partnership between Brussels and Belgrade, including on the difficult issues, is vital for the success of our joint efforts to promote stability and prosperity," he continued.

"The European Union will not be complete until the countries of the region have joined the family. Today, we have taken an important step towards this objective," Solana believes.

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