Kosovo Upbeat on Meeting Deadlines For SAA

Leaders in Kosovo say they expect to forge ahead in the EU integration process early in 2013, as they are “at the final stage” of meeting the criteria to start negotiations on the first step, a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, SAA.The President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, on Wednesday said that Kosovo was “already at the end stage of fulfilment of these criteria” and was making “sound steps towards the establishment of contractual agreements with the European Union.

“By signing of the Stabilisation-Association Agreement we take the first but very important step on our journey towards membership and complete integration into this union”, Jahjaga said at the third meeting of the National Council on European Integration.

Having started talks on the SAA, Kosovo would pave a way towards future EU membership, the President added.

On Tuesday, the European Council in Brussels called on Kosovo to make further progress in the so-called short-term criteria set out by the European Commission.

The criteria were outlined by the EU Commission in October in a Communication on a Feasibility Study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the EU and Kosovo.

This said that the European Commission would propose negotiating directives for such an agreement, “once Kosovo made progress in the rule of law, public administration, protection of minorities and trade”.

Following Tuesday’s meeting in Brussels, the European Council called on Kosovo “to accelerate the pace of reform”, saying that “Major efforts are needed in particular to strengthen public administration reform and consolidate rule of law, in particular by providing evidence of the fight against organised crime and corruption, judicial reform and freedom of expression”.

Hashim Thaçi, Kosovo’s Prime Minister, responded by saying that the remaining technical criteria would be fulfilled “in record time” so Kosovo would be ready to initial an SAA at the beginning of next year.

Thaci urged all ministries “to intensify their work and coordination” towards fulfilling the criteria in the integration process.

Among Western Balkan states Kosovo remains last in line in the EU integration process, because EU states have different stands on its status.

While 22 of the 27 members recognise its independence, Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Greece and Romania do not.

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