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Stabilisation and association process

The European Union’s (EU) policy towards the western Balkans takes the form of the stabilisation and association process (SAP) launched in 2000. The SAP seeks to stabilise the region with the prospect of future EU membership for candidate countries and potential candidates from the region.

Particular emphasis is placed on regional cooperation, for example the development of infrastructure and networks, along with the establishment of a free trade area. Although the SAP sets out common political and economic goals, each country’s progress is judged on its own merits.

By means of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance III (2021-2027), funding will continue to be provided to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, to develop market economies and to align domestic legislation of SAP partners with the EU acquis and relevant standards.

Western Balkan countries that acquire the candidate status continue to benefit from engagement with the EU through the SAP framework while involved in the accession process.

Partners in the SAP framework include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.


* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.