The starting point is: both the Western Balkans and the European Union need the Berlin Process. It will certainly be needed until the moment when Montenegro and Serbia approach the conclusion of most negotiating chapters, Albania and Macedonia make significant steps forward in their EU accession negotiations and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo reach the negotiations’ opening. Therefore, the need for this auxiliary mechanism shall exist for at least four years more, until all its results are absorbed and placed on the main track of the region’s EU integration.
What results are we talking about?
First, the initial Declaration by the Chair which launched the Berlin Process in 2014 in Berlin posed it very broadly. German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented a sort of guidelines for action in the region to the high Western Balkan officials, the EU representative and high representatives of four member states. These guidelines created the basis for all other steps within the process – from the subsequent summit in Vienna, via Paris, to Trieste. Each of the summits filled in the general framework defined in Berlin, with a particular emphasis on specific fields in accordance with the priorities of the countries hosting the process at the given moment – in Berlin the Connectivity Agenda was launched; in Vienna, the importance of neighbourhood relations and civil society was underlined; in Paris – climate changes and fight against terrorism; in Trieste, it was the enhancement of small and medium enterprises, trade and investments and fight against corruption and organized crime. The topic of youth stretched throughout the summits, with the topic of regional reconciliation drifting somewhere in the background. All this could in one way or another be incorporated into the accession negotiations; however, the time factor became critical in the region whereas the EU membership is still far away. For that reason, the activities, meetings, declarations, takeover of obligations, monitoring, reporting, establishment of new institutions such as the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) or the Western Balkans Chamber Investment Forum (WB CIF) brought a new and much needed dynamics onto the regional scene. This is true both for the activities focused only on the region and on the improvement of regional cooperation and for those extended to the EU, as was the case with the Connectivity Agenda which should not only establish or renovate and modernize the intra-regional infrastructural connections but also link them to the European transport and energy corridors.