Bulgaria has become the first country in the region and the third EU member state to ratify Serbia’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement, SAA, with the EU. Bringing together majority and opposition parties in the Bulgarian parliament, the agreement was officially ratified on Friday.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov noted that Serbian membership in the EU is important for bilateral relations between the two countries as well as for the region’s stability.
“This agreement is one of the Serbian bridges to Europe,” Mladenov said, while urging members of parliament to adopt the document.
He went on to describe the Bulgarian government’s aim: “The greatest strategic priority is for the Western Balkans to join the EU. This will enable certain regional issues to be resolved,” Serbian broadcaster RTS quoted him as saying.
Members of the right-wing Ataka party were the only group to abstain from the vote. The party’s leader Volen Siderov said earlier that unconditional support to Serbia is not logical, and called for a clause requiring Serbia to respect its Bulgarian minority population, Novinite reports.
Serbia was given the EU pre-accession green light on June 14 when the 27 EU foreign ministers decided to submit the country’s SAA to the parliaments of EU member states for ratification. Immediately following the decision, Spain and Malta ratified the document.
The SAA, by which countries hoping to join the EU work to harmonise their domestic legislation with EU laws and implement reforms, is part of the pre-accession process and was the next important step on Serbia’s EU path. The decision to submit the SAA for ratification was made possible after the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY, said in his biannual report that Belgrade was cooperating with the court.