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Press Release | Thursday, 20. July 2017

Western Balkans Conference initiates new international institution to support junior scientists

Joint press release
National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
Académie des sciences – Institut de France

Following the recommendation of the “Joint Science Conference”, which was jointly organised by the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the French Académie des sciences, the Heads of State and Government decided at the Western Balkans Conference on 12 July in Trieste, Italy, to establish a foundation to support junior scientists at scientific institutions in the Balkans. The Joint Science Conference is one of the pillars of the “Western Balkans Process / Berlin Process”, an initiative of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, aiming to support the integration of the Balkan countries into the European Union.

The Paris Joint Science Conference brought together scientists and representatives of national academies, rectors’ conferences and research organisations from the 13 countries of the Western Balkans Process. They discussed strategies to improve the national science systems and to create growth in Southeastern Europe through education, research and innovation. The proceedings focused on ways to fund research activities of junior scientists in the Western Balkans, aiming to slow down brain drain and ¬– at the same time – create structures of excellent research and intensify cooperation between researchers from the EU and the Western Balkans.

The results were summarised in a Joint Statement, providing independent advice to political decision-makers. The Joint Statement features the proposal to establish an international foundation, which should award grants to outstanding junior scientists, enabling them to create their own research labs and teams in the Balkan countries within five to seven years. The grants should be awarded irrespective of origins and scientific affiliation, solely based on quality criteria. On 12 July, the Heads of State and Government have accepted this proposal and decided to start the process of establishing the Foundation. The Joint Science Conference of the Western Balkans Process shall manage the implementation.

The Joint Statement and further information on the science-based input of the Western Balkans Process is available on the dedicated webpages.

Fourteen parties currently participate in the Western Balkans Process: the EU member states Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom, together with the six Western Balkans states Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYRo Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia as well as the European Commission. The process supports the efforts to integrate the Western Balkan countries into the EU and to strengthen the regional cooperation in politics, economy, education, science and society. The Leopoldina was entrusted by the German Federal Government to take the lead in the subject area of science and society.

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