The European Union today re-established the exceptional autonomous trade preferences, which it grants to all Western Balkan countries including Kosovo , until the end of 2015. Western Balkan economies will therefore continue as of 1 January 2011 to benefit from an unlimited duty-free access to the EU market for nearly all products originating in these countries and territories. Together with the bilateral Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAAs) in place with all Western Balkan countries except Kosovo, these trade preferences support economic integration with the EU and hence foster political stability and economic progress in the entire region.
The autonomous trade preferences should allow all Western Balkan countries to further benefit from the preferential trade regime, where this is more beneficial than the treatment foreseen in the SAAs. It should notably allow the customs territory of Kosovo to benefit from the current duty-free, quota-free treatment for almost all its exported products, since it does not have an SAA with the EU. Total exports of Kosovo to the EU amounted to about €147 mio in 2010.
In 2000 the European Union established for the first time exceptional unlimited duty-free access to the EU market for nearly all products originating in the Western Balkan region (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo) in Regulation (EC) No 2007/2000). Only wine, sugar, certain beef products and certain fisheries products enter the EU under preferential tariff quotas, as negotiated under the SAAs. The regime was renewed in 2005, and due to expire on 31 December 2010.
Therefore, on 22 February 2010, the Commission proposed to extend this autonomous preferential regime until 31 December 2015. The European Parliament voted in favour of the Commission proposal on 13 October 2011 and the Council adopted it on 24 November 2011. The tariff reductions under the new Regulation amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1215/2009, adopted today, are applied retroactively to allow exporters to claim compensation for the duties paid in 2011.
For further information:
On EU trade relations with Western Balkans
John Clancy (+32 2 295 37 73)
Helene Banner (+32 2 295 24 07)
 Under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244/99.