The Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) is the European Union’s policy towards the Western Balkans, established with the aim of eventual EU membership. Western Balkan countries are involved in a progressive partnership with a view of stabilising the region and establishing a free-trade area. The SAP sets out common political and economic goals although progress evaluation is based on countries’ own merits. The SAP was launched in June 1999 and strengthened at the Thessaloniki Summit in June 2003 taking over elements of the accession process. It rests on:
• Contractual relationships (bilateral Stabilisation and Association agreements);
• Trade relations (autonomous trade measures);
• Financial assistance (the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance – IPA);
• Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.