Like all other Western Balkan countries, Kosovo was offered the prospect of joining the European Union by the European Council in Thessaloniki in 2003. The speed with which the pre‑accession process is completed will depend very much on the progress made by Kosovo, above all on the rule of law, consolidating administrative structures and developing a viable market economy.
On 27 October 2015, a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) was signed between the EU and Kosovo. It entered into force on 16 April 2016. The aim of the agreement is to support Kosovo’s reform efforts so that it can adopt the European Union’s acquis. It serves to enhance the independence of the media and the judicial system, support the fight against high-level corruption and organised crime, as well as foster reform of the labour market. Furthermore, the conclusion of a framework agreement with Kosovo will pave the way for its participation in EU programmes and agencies.
The EU provides considerable financial support for the country’s political and economic development. It has made available some 646 million euros for the period 2014-2020 under its Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). The measures financed concern, first and foremost, the promotion of democracy, good governance, the rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights, protection of the environment and climate change mitigation, improved transport infrastructure, competitiveness, as well as education, employment and social policies. Moreover, the EU is supporting agriculture and rural development, as well as cooperation in the region. The measures financed from IPA funds are described in detail in the Indicative Strategy Paper for Kosovo of 20 August 2014.
Since December 2008, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX KOSOVO) has been helping the Kosovar authorities to create a professional and multi-ethnic justice sector, police force and customs agencies. It currently has some 750 international members of staff. The mission’s current mandate ends in mid-2016.
The EU launched a dialogue on visa liberalisation with Kosovo in January 2012. This will continue over several years, during which time Kosovo is to put the necessary national conditions in place so that tourists from Kosovo can be allowed to travel visa-free to Schengen states.
Normalisation process between Serbia and Kosovo
In October 2012, the then High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, initiated a high-level political dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. Her successor, Federica Mogherini, is continuing the dialogue. Since then, the Prime Ministers of the two countries have been meeting regularly to advance the normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo.
The process resulted in April 2013 in the first normalisation agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, a major step towards establishing good-neighbourly relations. The agreement primarily regulates the transformation of the so-called illegal parallel Serbian structures in the administration, justice system and police into Kosovar institutions. In return, the Kosovo Serbs have been granted self-administration rights in northern Kosovo, which they can exercise within the context of a federation of majority Kosovo Serbian communities.
Within the framework of this dialogue, the parties have also reached agreements on matters such as implementing integrated border management and assigning liaison officers to each other’s capitals.
Since March 2011, Serbia and Kosovo have been conducting an EU-facilitated technical dialogue in Brussels with the prime aim of improving the quality of life for ordinary people. Successes have already been achieved with respect to free movement of persons, recognition of higher education qualifications, integrated border management, civil and land registers, the free movement of goods and the representation of Kosovo in regional organisations.
On 25 August 2015, the Prime Ministers of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, and of Kosovo, Isa Mustafa, signed four declarations on energy, telecommunications, the establishment of a federation of majority Kosovo Serbian communities as well as Mitrovica Bridge and freedom of movement. This is intended to help normalise relations between Belgrade and Priština. Moreover, in February 2015 agreements on the judicial system and in June 2015 on vehicle insurance were signed.