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Kosovo could start work on a landmark Stabilization and Association Agreement within six months if it completes a number of reforms by then, Brussels says.
The European Commission says Kosovo could start negotiating a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Brussels - the first step to membership - within as little as six months if it finishes its homework.
Stefan Fule, EU Enlargement Commissioner, said the new "Feasibility Study for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Union and Kosovo," published on Wednesday in Brussels, had found that a SAA could be proposed “once Kosovo makes progress on short-term priorities identified”.
More progress needed to made first in the rule of law, reform of the public administration, protection of ethnic minorities and reforms to trade.
In the medium term, he added, the EU also expected better “visible and sustainable relations" with Serbia.
Belgrade and Pristina started EU-mediated talks in Brussels in March 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence, which Serbia has refused to recognise.
Five of the 27 EU member states have also not recognized Kosovo, but the European Commission has decided that this need not prevent the EU from entering into a contractual relationship with Kosovo, which may still be considered a potential candidate.
The EU’s Special Representative to Kosovo, Samuel Zbogar, said the details set out in the feasibility study were positive and underlined the necessity to move forward.
He said that the EU wanted to see “concrete priorities in the rule of law, meaning the continuation of good cooperation with EULEX [the EU law mission], in particular the Special Investigation Task Force, cases of organized crime... and a corruption strategy needs to be adopted.”
Slovenia’s former head of diplomacy said that opening an SAA process for Kosovo could be announced as soon as the country met the criteria set out, which, according to him, may happen within six months.
“It depends on when we do all the checks on the four priorities. Looking from the outside it could be done by spring ,” he said.
He added that in the long term, in order to conclude the SAA, Kosovo will have to adopt a strategy to fight corruption, adopt more laws on fighting money-laundering and financing terrorism, ensure electoral reform, reform the judiciary and strengthen parliament.
Optimism about reform under the new government fades as the new team delays enacting the promised media strategy and takes effective control of the media through the familiar tactics of targeted advertising and hidden ownership.