The Western Balkans Process – also known as the Berlin Process – is a joint initiative of 14 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 August 28th, 2014 in Berlin. The following summits were held on August 27th, 2015 in Vienna (Austria), on July 4th, 2016 in Paris (France), on July 12th in Trieste (Italy) and on July 10th, 2018 in London (UK). The next summit shall take place in July 2019, in Poznań (Poland).
15 parties are currently involved in the Process: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Kosovo*, FYRo Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom as well as the European Commission.
The German Federal Government has approached the Leopoldina with the request to take the lead in the areas of science, education, and society within the framework of the Western Balkans Process. Against the backdrop of the tremendous importance of this science diplomacy project, the Leopoldina joined key national stakeholders of the education and science systems on a newly founded platform, the so-called Joint Science Conference of the Western Balkans Process.
The first conference, held from July 15th to 17th, 2015 in Halle and Berlin (Germany), was the starting point for a series of annual conferences in unison with the summits of Heads of State and Government. The second conference took place from May 22nd to 25th, 2016 in Vienna (Austria). The third conference convened from June 14th to 16th, 2017 in Paris (France) and the fourth conference took place from May 30th to June 1st, 2018 in Rome (Italy). The next conference shall take place in June 2019, at The Royal Society in London (UK).
The circle of stakeholders is composed of national academies of sciences and arts, rectors’ conferences, research organizations as well as distinguished scientists, junior scientists and experts invited in a personal capacity. Further representatives of (international) organizations, 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 summarized in joint statements or communiqués and incorporated into the annual Western Balkans summits of Heads of State and Government.