European engagement with the Western Balkans under the Berlin Process: analysing progress in 2020-2021

The research analyses European support for progress in the Western Balkan region (WB) under the Berlin Process (BP) with a focus on the period culminating in the 2020 Sofia and 2021 Berlin Summits.

It is divided into three sections: first, an overview of the BP, focusing on the Sofia and Berlin Summits and their role in setting the course for regional cooperation within the BP. Second, an analysis of the progress made against commitments on key BP topics (as set out in the respective declarations and chairs’ conclusions) during 2020-2021. This draws on: (i) recent findings from research and analysis conducted on behalf of various organisations and/or governmental institutions; (ii) the results of interviews; (iii) perspectives from local, regional, and international media and relevant commentators. The third section concludes by discussing the future of the BP and setting out recommendations for BP organisers and stakeholders based on the research and analysis.

The analysis of progress in this briefing highlights in particular that:

  • The creation of a Common Regional Market (CRM) and the Green Agenda for the WB have enormous positive potential – but fine words now need assiduous follow up.
  • The establishment of ‘Green Lanes’ to facilitate movement during the COVID-19 pandemic and the abolition of roaming charges have provided further successful examples of regional cooperation – even if there is much more that could be done to enhance connectivity, digital inclusion and freedom of movement across the region and into European Union (EU) countries.
  • Doubts over EU integration and accession processes on all sides risk undermining political and technical progress towards regional reconciliation, cooperation and integration. For example, by excluding three of the six WB countries (the WB6), the ‘Open Balkan’ Initiative could undermine the strong potential of the CRM, which enjoys wider regional buy-in.
  • There is room for greater focus on security challenges in the region within the BP – but these relate more to building societal demand for action on organized crime, corruption and ethno-nationalism than investing in counter-terrorism.
  • Engagement with civil society, youth and environmental movements – despite being a relative strength of the BP to date – could be markedly improved, with knock-on benefits in all other areas. Youth structures in particular have further untapped potential.
  • Reconciliation efforts remain stuck, and thus warrant more dedicated political engagement, more careful process design and greater inclusivity.
  • BP work on Roma integration appears encouraging if kept in focus. 

Find below the pdf version of the report:  

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