Western Balkans Conference in Berlin: Helping the region to continue to grow closer together
Western Balkans Summit Berlin 2022, © Janine Schmitz/photothek.de
The Berlin Process is helping the Western Balkans and people in the region grow closer together. Foreign Minister Baerbock is hosting a Foreign Ministers’ meeting at the Federal Foreign Office today.
This year, the focus will be on key issues such as the green agenda, climate, energy and energy security, as well as the development of the Common Regional Market. The six Western Balkan countries have held intensive negotiations on the Common Regional Market at the Federal Foreign Office in recent weeks, presided over by Federal Government Special Representative Manuel Sarrazin. Their talks have included the possible conclusion of regional mobility agreements on the freedom of travel with ID cards and the recognition of academic diplomas and vocational certificates. These are all important steps that would improve the lives of people in the region in a tangible way and promote the region’s economic development.
Civil society also in attendance
Further attendees include the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) and representatives of civil society. The RYCO has run an extensive school exchange project over the past year (Superschools), in which more than 800 pupils participated. Some of them will talk about the reconciliation work done by young people in the region at the Foreign Ministers’ meeting.
Part of the Berlin Process in the run-up to the summit in November
The six Western Balkan countries will be joined by the EU, the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and the United Kingdom at the meeting in the Weltsaal of the Federal Foreign Office. In addition to the Foreign Ministers’ meeting, there will also be a meeting of interior ministers in Berlin on 20 October and a meeting of economic affairs and energy ministers on 24 October. A civil society forum and a youth forum will likewise be held. This series of meetings will be concluded with a Summit meeting hosted by Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz on 3 November.
Process launched in 2014
Launched in 2014, the Berlin Process aims to strengthen and deepen regional integration in and with the Western Balkans. Enhanced regional cooperation remains key to economic growth and peace in the region. The Berlin Process is also intended to help accelerate the entire region’s closer alignment with the EU. In this context, it focuses on areas such as infrastructure development, business, regional youth exchanges, reconciliation and science. Successes of the Berlin Process to date include the creation of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), the Regional Roaming Agreement and the establishment of what are known as green lanes, which facilitated the expedited clearance of important goods at borders during the COVID-19 pandemic.