Countries seeking close cooperation with the EU can conclude a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union. Agreements of this kind are especially common in trade policy. Depending on the design of the agreement, various mutual rights and obligations are conferred on the associate partner.
The EU’s Stabilisation and Association Agreements with third countries have varying priorities. Some promote convergence, in preparation for a potential EU accession at a later date, for example in the case of Turkey, Montenegro and Serbia. Others are intended to support the partners’ economic development, such as in the case of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Still others seek to advance free trade between both sides while at the same time harmonising the partners’ legal order with EU law, for example the agreements to form a European Economic Area concluded with the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. Agreements can also help to stabilise a conflict-torn region, however.
Association agreements usually also provide for convergence and cooperation in the field of labour and social affairs. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is involved in the design and the subsequent evaluation of the agreements in this area. To date, this has been particularly important regarding the association agreement with Turkey (the Ankara Agreement: 1963) and those with all of the Western Balkan countries (Macedonia: 2004; Albania: 2009; Montenegro: 2010; Bosnia and Herzegovina: 2015; Serbia: 2013; Kosovo: 2016). Agreements of this kind have recently been concluded with three Eastern Partnership countries (Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova).