Scrutiny of international agreements: Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Serbia Contents

Agreement reported for information

Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Agreement, done at Belgrade on 16 April 2021, between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Serbia (CP 433, 2021)1

1.The Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and Serbia (the UK-Serbia Agreement) was laid on 11 May 2021, and the scrutiny period is scheduled to end on 23 June 2021. It was considered by the Committee on 16 June 2021.

2.The precursor agreement to the UK-Serbia Agreement is the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Serbia, of the other part (the EU-Serbia Agreement).2 The EU-Serbia Agreement fully entered into force in September 2013 and the UK-Serbia Agreement seeks to maintain its effects by replicating it with only minor amendments.

3.The UK-Serbia Agreement covers:

4.Like its predecessor, the UK-Serbia Agreement includes provisions on respect for democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law, which are classed as an ‘essential element’ of the Agreement. In the case of a material breach, the Agreement may be suspended.

Entry into force

5.The Government’s Explanatory Memorandum (EM) published alongside the Agreement on 11 May explained that the Government was discussing with Serbia the possibility of provisional application,3 and DIT officials have confirmed that the Agreement has been provisionally applied since 20 May.

6.UK trade with Serbia operated on quasi-WTO terms between the end of the post-Brexit transition period and provisional application on 20 May: Serbian goods imported into the UK were subject to WTO rules, whereas UK goods exported to Serbia (which is yet to accede to the WTO) were treated in accordance with Serbia’s legislation.

The UK’s trade relationship with Serbia

7.An overview of UK-Serbia trade is provided in Box 1.

Box 1: UK trade with Serbia

Serbia is the UK’s 89th largest trading partner, accounting for less than 0.1% of total UK trade. In 2019, trade in goods and services between the UK and Serbia was worth £682 million.4

Trade in goods

Total trade in goods with Serbia was worth £450 million. Top UK goods exports to Serbia were machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical machinery and equipment, and plastics. The UK mainly imported rubber, electrical machinery and equipment, and machinery and mechanical appliances.5

Trade in services

Total trade in services with Serbia was worth £232 million. Travel, intellectual property and telecommunications, computer and information services were the top UK services exports to Serbia. The top services import was travel.6

Territorial scope and consultation

8.The Agreement applies to the Crown Dependencies and Gibraltar in the same way as the underlying EU Agreement, and the EM explains that they have been consulted.7 The Government is working with Gibraltar and the Crown Dependencies to ensure that any necessary changes to legislation to implement the Agreement are made.

9.The EM also indicates that the Government has consulted the Devolved Administrations (DAs) and shared the draft legal text with them once stable.8

10.We repeat our previous recommendation that the Government’s EM should include information about any significant issues of concern raised by the Devolved Administrations (and others) and how they have been addressed, or alternatively confirm that no significant concerns have been expressed.

Substantial divergences from the EU-Serbia Agreement

11.While most provisions in the EU-Serbia Agreement have been replicated, the UK-Serbia Agreement includes the following notable changes:

Remaining roll-over agreements with countries in the Western Balkans

12.The Explanatory Memorandum explains that the UK’s objective is “a stable, secure and prosperous Serbia, contributing to regional stability”.12 We note, in this context, Serbia’s relative size and influence in the Western Balkans.

13.The EU secured Stabilisation and Association Agreements with all countries in the Western Balkans, providing for political and economic cooperation. To date, the UK has rolled over the EU’s agreements with the Republic of North Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo, and all these agreements have been fully ratified. Although we understand from FCDO officials that negotiations are ongoing, no agreements are yet in place between the UK and Bosnia & Herzegovina, and the UK and Montenegro.

14.We call on the Government to continue to pursue negotiations with Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro, with a view to rolling over the EU’s Stabilisation and Association Agreements.

15.We report the Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and Serbia to the House for information. In particular, we highlight our comments at paragraphs 10 and 14


1 Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Agreement, done at Belgrade on 16 April 2021, between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Serbia: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/984929/CS_Serbia_1.2021_UK_Serbia_Partnership_Trade_and_Cooperation_Agreement.pdf [accessed 7 June 2021]

2 Council and Commission Decision of 22 July 2013 on the conclusion of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Serbia, of the other part, OJ L 278 (18 October 2013)

3 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Continuing the United Kingdom’s Trade Relationship with the Republic of Serbia (May 2021), p 8: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/986212/Continuing-the-UKs-Trade-Relationship-with-the-Republic-of-Serbia.pdf [accessed 7 June 2021)

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid., p 9

7 Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Explanatory Memorandum on the Partnership, Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Serbia (19 February 2021), p 3: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/984931/EM_CS_Serbia_1.2021_UK_Serbia_Partnership_Trade_and_Cooperation.odt [accessed 7 June 2021]

8 Ibid., p 6

9 Excluding the UK’s Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

10 The PEM Convention is a multilateral agreement that provides for diagonal cumulation between all 23 contracting parties in the pan-Euro-Med zone, including Serbia. To maintain the effects of the Convention now that the UK is no longer a signatory, a ‘snapshot’ had to be included in the UK-Serbia Agreement.

11 Parliamentary Report, p 24

12 Explanatory Memorandum, p 4




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