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. The following summits were held on 27 August 2015 in Vienna (Austria), on 4 July 2016 in Paris (France), on 12 July 2017 Trieste (Italy) and on 10 July 2018 in London (UK). The next summit shall take place on 5 July 2019, in Poznań (Poland).
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.
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. Considering 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 Berlin Process Joint Science Conference.
The first conference, held from July 15 to 17 July 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 22 to 25 May 2016 in Vienna (Austria). The third conference convened from 14 to 16 June 2017 in Paris (France) and the fourth conference took place from 30 May to 1 June 2018 in Rome (Italy). The next conference will take place from 28 to 30 May 2019 at The Royal Society in London (UK).
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.