An Association Agreement (AA) is one of the most common legal instruments seen in the EU’s external relations. AAs are used in a number of different contexts, for example in preparation for EU accession, or to develop long-term neighbourly relations, as well as in other cases. Such agreements aim at the establishment of “special” trade and political relations between the partner country and the EU.
Given the variety of cases in which they are used, AAs are highly flexible instruments, generally drawn up through a bilateral negotiation process. Despite the variety, AAs do have some common features, being commonly based on three pillars – political dialogue, trade and cooperation. AAs are also recognisable thanks to their specific institutional arrangements, in which joint structures bring together EU and partner-state representatives. These structures are in particular involved in the process of monitoring the AA’s operation.
The European Commission plays an important role in planning and monitoring its implementation. The EP is involved through its bilateral or multilateral inter-parliamentary contacts with its counterparts in the associated countries. The EP must also consent to the conclusion or revision of AAs, and co-decides on and scrutinises the financial instruments used in cooperation. It may also adopt initiative reports in this field.