Meetings of experts in the Think Tank Forum format were initiated during the Polish presidency of the Berlin Process. On the one hand, this cooperation platform provides important concrete support for Poland as the host of the Western Balkans Summit. On the other, it supports cooperation between expert and non-governmental organisations in the countries of the EU and the Western Balkans. Within the Berlin Process experts circles are tasked with monitoring the implementation of commitments made by the Balkan states. They are further tasked with preparing analyses and recommendations ahead of meetings at the political level. The development of cooperation among expert groups serves to elaborate common proposals of solutions to the crucial problems of the region. The inclusion of experts from the Western Balkans in the network of analytical organisations from the EU makes it possible for a mutual increase in competences. It also enables experience and information exchange.
One essential goal of the Think Tank Forum meetings is to discuss the achievements and challenges facing the new European Commission linked to the EU’s enlargement policy and the development of the Berlin Process.
The first expert conference of the Think Tank Forum took place on 13th-14th May in Skopje. The Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) and the Institute for Democracy Societas Civilis Skopje (IDSCS) in collaboration with the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs organised a conference entitled, ‘Reinforcing the European Integration of the Western Balkans – Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future’. The plenary session was focused on the experiences of Central European countries with integration, the EU’s internal challenges, and the future of enlargement policy. The issues discussed in a series of round tables debates include: security, the construction of democratic institutions in a region resistant to outside influence, and solving bilateral conflicts.
The second edition of the Think Tank Forum took place on the 3rd July in Poznań and was devoted to evaluating what the Berlin Process has achieved to date in socio-economic terms. There was also a discussion about recommendations on how to increase the efficiency of enlargement policy and the instruments of the Berlin Process. The first panel discussed regional cooperation towards the economic integration of the Balkan states in infrastructural terms, and how to increase trade. The second session covered social-economic issues and the main challenges hampering regional development, such as problems with the functioning of the rule of law. The third session was time to hear a broader reflection from Balkans experts on the effectiveness of the current EU policy on the region and of initiatives undertaken as part of the Berlin Process. Proposals will be presented to make the EU’s activity more effective, to accelerate the social-economic transformation and the region’s integration with the EU. Recommendations resulting from the debates were presented during the ministerial meetings accompanying the Western Balkans Summit in Poznań.
The Think Tank Forum project, as a Polish contribution to the Berlin process, is implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Poland.
More information: Think Tank Forum during Western Balkan Summit in Poznań
The cooperation of Visegrad countries and Western Balkan countries as part of the Berlin Process and preparations to the Poznań summit was also a topic at the annual Think Visegrad conference, which this year took place in Bratislava on 27th-28th May. It was organised by the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA) and was attended by representatives of think tanks from countries of the Visegrad Group and the Balkans. The conclusions of the meetings were communicated to the foreign ministers of the Visegrad and Western Balkan countries who were attending a parallel meeting in Bratislava organised as part of Slovakia’s presidency of the Visegrad Group.
More information: Think Visegrad mid-term conference 2019
On 4-6 June in Rzeszów was held Forum of Cities and Regions, organized by the Ministry of Investment and Economic Development. Forum was attended by representatives of the governments of countries participating in the Berlin process, the European Commission, the European Committee of the Regions and the European Investment Bank, as well as local government officials from Poland and the Balkan states. The ceremonial opening session of the Forum was moderated by Marta Szpala from the Central European Department of the OSW, which coordinates the OSW activities regarding the Berlin process. OSW deputy director Mateusz Gniazdowski took part in an expert session devoted to programming European territorial cooperation.
The Forum of Cities and Regions is a Polish initiative within the Berlin process, which aims to support the countries of the Western Balkans on their way to the EU by deepening regional and cross-border cooperation and transferring experience regarding the use of EU funds.
More information: Forum of Cities and Regions