The Western Balkans Process – also known as the Berlin Process – is a joint initiative of 16 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 the 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 of State and Government was held on 28 August 2014 in Berlin. Subsequent summits were held in Vienna (Austria) in August 2015, Paris (France) in July 2016, Trieste (Italy) in July 2017, London (UK) in July 2018, Poznań (Poland) in July 2019, Sofia (online) in November 2020, and Berlin (online) in July 2021.
17 parties are currently involved in the Process: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom as well as the European Commission.
At the request of the Federal Government, the Leopoldina as National Academy took the lead in the area of science, education and society. The Leopoldina brought together key national stakeholders of the education and science systems in a newly founded platform, the so-called Joint Science Conference of the Western Balkans Process.
The first conference took place in 2015 in Halle and Berlin and was the starting point for a series of annual conferences, each jointly organised with the national academy of the host country of the summits of heads of state and government. The second conference was held in Vienna (Austria) in 2016. The third conference was held in Paris (France) in 2017, the fourth conference in Rome (Italy) in 2018, the fifth conference in London (UK) in 2019 and the sixth in July 2021 (online).
The circle of stakeholders is composed of national academies of sciences and arts, rectors’ conferences and leading universities, 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 can 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.