The Western Balkans Process – also known as the Berlin Process – is a joint initiative of 13 European countries and the European Commission. It supports the efforts to integrate the region into the European Union and foster regional cooperation. The Process covers areas such as resolution of bilateral disputes, endorsement of rule of law, connectivity and economic development as well as strengthening the cooperation in education, science (research and innovation) and inter-societal dialogue.
On invitation of the German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, the launching summit of the Western Balkans Process on the level of heads and state and government was held on 28 August 2014 in Berlin. The following summits were held on 27 August 2015 in Vienna (Austria) and on 4 July 2016 in Paris (France). The 4th Western Balkans Summit convenes on 12 July 2017 in Trieste (Italy), with the United Kingdom planning to host the 2018 summit.
14 parties are currently involved in the Process: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Kosovo*, FYRo Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom as well as the European Commission.
The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina was entrusted by the German Federal Government to take the lead in the field of education, science and society in the framework of the Western Balkans Process. Being aware of the crucial importance of this science diplomacy undertaking, Leopoldina brought together key national stakeholders of the science and education systems in a newly established platform, the so-called Joint Science Conference of the Western Balkans Process.
The first conference, held from 15 to 17 July 2015 in Halle and Berlin (Germany), was the starting point for a series of annual conferences in synchronisation with the summits of heads of state and government. Subsequently, the second conference took place from 22 to 25 May 2016 in Vienna (Austria). The third conference convenes from 14 to 16 June 2017 in Paris (France). In 2018, the annual conference is planned to take place in Italy.
The circle of stakeholders is composed of national academies of sciences and arts, rectors’ conferences, research organisations as well as distinguished scientists, junior scientists and experts invited ad personam. Further representatives of (international) organisations, the European Commission, national governments and embassies may take part as invited participants or observers.
The conferences examine the challenges and necessary improvements for the science systems in the Western Balkans and broader South East Europe. The results are summarised in Joint Statements or Communiqués and fed into the annual Western Balkans summits of heads of state and government.