Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The European Commission on February 22 adopted a proposal to extend the autonomous trade preferences which the European Union (EU) grants to Western Balkan countries, until 2015.
The trade preferences were first introduced in 2000 on a bilateral basis to support economic integration with the EU and hence foster political stability and economic progress in the entire region. The Commissionís latest decision will ensure that the Western Balkan economies continue to benefit from unlimited duty free access to the EU market for nearly all products originating in these countries and territories.
The beneficiaries are participants of the EU Stabilization and Association process, namely Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and the customs territory of Kosovo. The Stabilization and Association process aims at the eventual accession of the Western Balkans to the EU.
The trade preferences were due to expire at the end of 2010, but due to the negative repercussions on the nationís of their withdrawal, the Commission has decided to extend the preferential regime until December 31, 2015.
The Regulation will be discussed by the Council and European Parliament under the ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision). It is expected to enter into force on January 1, 2011.