The decision has been in effect since July 22, 2013 and the agreement since September 1, 2013. Successive amendments to the agreement were introduced in the original act. This consolidated version is only of documentary value. On 7 November, the EU and Serbia signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement (ASA). This agreement, which defines the respective rights and obligations of the signatories, provides a framework for the implementation of the reforms that will bring this potential candidate country closer to the EU. The agreement opens a free trade area between Serbia and the EU for a transitional period of six years. The deadline for trade liberalization is set in accordance with the ability of Serbian industry and agriculture to adapt to free trade, but also serbia`s desire to accelerate reforms and join the European Union. Serbia`s commitment is to phase out tariffs on goods from the EU during a transitional period. On the other hand, through this agreement, the European Union confirms the free access of goods from Serbia to the European Union market. The establishment of a free trade area and the harmonisation of the legislation of the Republic of Serbia with EU law are two of the main obligations that the Republic of Serbia will assume under this agreement. Stabilization and association agreements are part of the EU Stabilisation and Association Process (PSA) and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).
At present, the countries of the Western Balkans are at the heart of the PSA. Specific Stabilization and Association Agreements (ASAs) have been implemented with various Balkan countries, which contain explicit provisions for the country`s future accession to the EU. The SAAs resemble in principle the European agreements signed in the 1990s with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the association agreement with Turkey. The agreement with Kosovo was the first to be signed after the Lisbon Treaty came into force, which brought down the EU`s legal personality.   An EU representative in Kosovo stated that “unlike the ASA with other countries in the region, this agreement will be exclusively the EU agreement. The EU will sign them as a legal entity.  The agreement did not have to be ratified individually by each Member State, some of which did not recognize Kosovo`s independence.  The representative added: “Since Kosovo is not recognised by the five Member States, we had to adopt a directive stating that the signing of the agreement will not mean that the EU or any of the countries will recognise Kosovo as a state.”  As of April 2016, the ASA is in force in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Croatia once had an ASA, but it expired when it joined the EU in 2013.
In 2005, the EU`s relations with the Western Balkans were transferred from “external relations” to the “enlargement” political segment. From 2015, Albania, Northern Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia will be officially recognised as candidates for membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are not recognized as candidate countries, but as potential candidates.  The effective signing of the ASA has not yet taken place and depends on Serbia`s full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. Speaking before the plenary session of the European Parliament on 24 October, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said that the signing of the ASA was “within reach” but would require full cooperation with the ICTY, which would lead to the arrest and transfer to The Hague of the four remaining criminals charged. In discussions with countries that have expressed a desire to join the European Union, the EU generally enters into association agreements in exchange for commitments on political, economic, trade or human rights reforms in that country.