Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkans Summit Series
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Source: Leopoldina, Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften

Western Balkans Process – 4th Joint Science Conference

31.05.2018

Conference of the national stakeholders of the education and science systems in the framework of the Western Balkans Process

 

Convergence, cohesion and cooperation in South East Europe are complex processes, which demand collaborative action from education, science, politics, civil society and economy. The path is the goal: European integration of the Western Balkans and strengthening of South East Europe.

Photo: AlexanderVanLoon
[CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

The 4th Joint Science Conference of the Western Balkans Process / Berlin Process is organised jointly by the Leopoldina, the Italian Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and the Italian National Research Council (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche), with the kind support of the German Embassy in Rome and the German Federal Foreign Office as well the UK Embassy in Rome and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This year, the UK holds the presidency of the Berlin Process. In 2018 Poland also joined the Process.

The conference brings together around 80 top representatives of national academies of sciences and arts, rectors’ conferences, research organisations, transfer- and innovation facilities and distinguished scientists and science managers invited ad personam, from the 14 participating countries of the Berlin Process. The programme also features a dialogue with the Rome-based embassies of the involved countries and a keynote by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.

The conference will prepare formal recommendations to the Heads of State and Government meeting at the Western Balkans Summit in London, on 10 July 2018. Entitled “The Path is the Goal: Convergence, Cohesion and Cooperation in South East Europe”, the conferences focusses on three topics:

1. Smart Growth

Recommendations on how to generate “smart growth” in South East Europe, accompanied by proposed measures and instruments for implementation, shall be integrated into a future “Western Balkans Action Plan for Smart Growth”. “Smart growth” stands for economic growth and societal prosperity based in particular on education, research and innovation. It embraces elements, such as the creation of innovation ecosystems, facilitation of knowledge and technology transfer, and the reduction of the skills gap between the qualifications of graduates and the real demand from the national economies (and labour market). Novel, integrative approaches, such the Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) developed by the European Commission will also be considered.

2. Convergence and Cohesion

The conference intends to formulate recommendations for the acceleration of convergence between the South East European countries and the EU. Convergence is understood as a multifaceted Process of harmonisation and “catching-up” between the candidate countries and the EU, respectively within the EU itself. Convergence is not exclusively an economic process, as there are also other forms of convergence, e.g. social, welfare, institutional and scientific convergence. Additionally, recommendations for policies / measures / instruments for strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion (based on the solidarity principle) shall be formulated. This is particularly relevant in connection with the design of the EU Regional Policy (Cohesion Policy) and of the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) for candidate countries, as part of the new EU Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) between 2021 and 2027.

3. Cooperation

Prosperity, stability and a knowledge-based drive in South East Europe are at risk without a good relationship between former conflict parties and without good neighbourly relations between states. Dealing with the past aiming at shaping a better, more positive European future is a lengthy process, in terms of endurance and ownership. This is why the conference will try to formulate proposals for sustainable, institutionalised mechanisms for inter-societal rapprochement and reconciliation. In doing so, the main emphasis is on the role of education and science, and on the involvement of the young. Examples from the post-World War II European reconciliation will also be examined.