Equal conditions for all – All SAP countries must meet the same conditions if they want to approach the EU, and these are stable democratic institutions, the rule of law, respect and protection of human rights, respect and protection of minority rights, regional co-operation and building market economy. In addition, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro must fulfil the commitments received through the Dayton and Erdut Agreements, and the decisions of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC).
Clear perspective of the EU membership – In the Thessaloniki summit’s final act, it was clearly noted that the Western Balkans countries have a clear perspective of EU membership, and it underlined their intensive cooperation with the EU with the view to bringing them closer to the EU accession process. A multilateral forum was established, and European partnerships were introduced (as documents that identify areas in which each individual country must invest additional efforts and make reforms). The Thessaloniki Agenda opened up the possibility for EU’s cooperation with the SAP countries in the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy, and SAP countries have since been invited to join the EU’s common positions within the CFDP framework.
Through the Stabilisation and Association Process, the EU encourages the countries in the region as potential candidate countries to continue strengthening their relations in every field possible – from trade and investment, to infrastructure and return of refugees, to battle against organised crime.
Individual approach – The speed at which different countries go through various stages of the SAP depends on their ability to take on and fulfil the commitments that arise from the association with the EU. Each country approaches the EU based on its own success in meeting these commitments. If one country fails to meet these conditions, it will not affect other countries.
Importance of regional co-operation – Regional co-operation is the most important aspect of the SAP. EU documents state that regional co-operation is not intended to create a unique territory in the Balkans, but to encourage development of work methods and practices that are integral to the EU membership. The Stabilisation and Association Process forms strong bonds between the SAP countries and the EU and encourages co-operation between these countries, as well as their co-operation with the neighbours.
The EU closely monitors and analyses the Stabilisation and Association Process in order to objectively evaluate its effects and give advice to the SAP countries on how to meet the conditions and criteria of the EU.