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.”  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.  In discussions with countries that have expressed a desire to join the European Union, the EU generally concludes association agreements in exchange for commitments on political, economic, trade or human rights reforms in that country. In return, the country may be offered duty-free access to some or all EU markets (industrial goods, agricultural products, etc.) as well as financial or technical assistance.
Since April 2016, the ASA has been 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. The ASAs rely mainly on the EU`s EU acquis and are based on their enactment in the legislation of the cooperating countries. The political harmonisation expected by the ASA is lower than for EU Member States; Some areas of action of the Community acquis may not fall under a specific ASA.