Kosovo Signs Association Deal With EU in First Step to Entry

  • Deal will lead to `much-needed' job creation in Balkan state
  • EU will give Kosovo 646 million euros to support overhaul

Kosovo signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union, taking the first step toward membership with a deal aimed at boosting trade and investment.

Prime Minister Isa Mustafa signed the accord with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn in Strasbourg on Tuesday, the 28-member trading bloc said in a statement on its website. Kosovo, which announced independence from Serbia in 2008, is the last country to emerge from the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia to sign the accord.

“This agreement is a milestone for the EU-Kosovo relationship,” Hahn said in the statement. “It will put Kosovo on the path of sustainable economic growth and can lead to much-needed jobs for its citizens, especially the young.”

The EU has earmarked about 11.7 billion euros ($12.9 billion) in pre-accession funds for Western Balkan countries and Turkey for the 2014-2020 budget period. About 646 million euros is allocated to Kosovo, the EU said. Serbia, which refuses to recognize its former province as a sovereign state, is a few steps ahead in its accession talks. Of the ex-Yugoslav republics, Slovenia and Croatia are part of the EU, while Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro are officially candidates.

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