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Photograph: freeimages.com/till_achinger

The European Parliament on Thursday ratified the European Union's Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with Kosovo, which is the first important step in Kosovo's integration into the EU.

The SAA was supported by 486 MEPs, 102 voted against and 81 abstained.

“This is very good news and another important step on Kosovo's path towards EU integration. For the first time, the EU and Kosovo will enter into a contractual agreement”, said rapporteur Ulrike Lunacek (Greens, AT).

“Now the agreement has to enter into force without delay. This will give a major positive signal to Kosovo's citizens and economy. Implementing the agreement will help institutionalise the reform process. It will also bring new possibilities for Kosovo to strengthen relations with the EU and thus contribute to the stabilisation of the whole region”, she added, according to an EP press release.

The agreement enhances EU-Kosovo political dialogue, trade relations and fosters closer cooperation in many sectors, including energy, the environment, and justice and home affairs. It also has provisions aiming to promote EU standards in areas such as competition, procurement, intellectual property, consumer protection and good governance.

The EP’s consent paves the way for the Council of Ministers to formally conclude this agreement and enable its entry into force in a few months’ time.  All the matters dealt with in this agreement fall within the EU sphere of competence and it does not need to be ratified by individual EU member states.

The EP has one again called on the remaining EU member states which have not recognised Kosovo yet (Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Greece and Cyprus) to do so to facilitate the futher normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina, Italian news agency ANSA said.

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