The Credible Enlargement Perspective for the Western Balkans through the lenses of the Berlin Process

The Berlin Process (Western Balkans Summit) has kept enlargement on the EU agenda and the interest for the EU in the Western Balkans. This Process bridged a political (and even technical) standstill in the enlargement process, which started in 2014 and ended in 2018. It served as an inspiration and provided substance to the new incentive offered by the European Commission to the Western Balkan countries in February 2018 - ‘A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans’. The Commission’s 6 Flagship Initiatives cover some of the areas in which considerable progress was reached through the Berlin Process. The document and its endorsement by the EU member states in Sofia in May and at the June Council show that EU stands firmly behind its content. Once again, the flexibility, “variable geometry” approach and innovative capacity of the EU institutional structure was demonstrated where a group of member states, organised in an intergovernmental forum, were able to establish a side way to lead to the enlargement mainstream.

The Berlin Process produced a number of visible and latent results in the area of: connectivity (the Transport Community was established and Energy Community re-energized), reconciliation and bilateral issues (Macedonia-Greece name issue, Montenegro-Kosovo and Montenegro-Bosnia and Herzegovina border issues) and youth cooperation (the Regional Youth Cooperation Office and Western Balkan Fund were created). Maybe even more importantly, the Berlin Process and the presence and specific focus of crucial EU governments and political personalities managed to create a positive and encouraging atmosphere in which Western Balkan political leaders felt comfortable and confident enough to make progress in all of the discussed policy areas. It achieved a very subtle result, i.e. it contributed to changing the mindset of these elites and influenced them in recognising that regional cooperation was essential for the overall advancement of the region and of each individual country. This process paved the way to a historic visit by an Albanian prime minister to Belgrade in November 2014, first after 68 years.3 The common understanding of Albanian and Serbian prime ministers was also instrumental for swift agreement on establishment of the RYCO.

By acknowledging this, the Berlin Process should continue far beyond its initial five-year framework. The Warsaw Summit, in 2019, is the beginning of a new phase and at the same time it presents a challenge having in mind the current state of affairs within the EU. In order to continue to produce results, remain relevant and original in its approach and the topics discussed, in light of the recently endorsed strategy on A Credible enlargement perspective, it needs to be modified. The topics discussed and the intergovernmental structure of this international fora give ground for proper upgrading of this initiative in order to meet new challenges and at the same time avoid duplicating of the accession process. If the Berlin Process remains a kind of “accession laboratory” it can encourage the European Commission to undertake even more substantial engagement.

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Document type
  • Report


Publication Year


Geographical focus
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • General

Entry created by Admin on September 4, 2018
Modified on September 4, 2018