The Berlin Process, is an initiative aimed at stepping up regional cooperation in Western Balkans encouraging the integration of these countries into the European Union. It started with the 2014 Conference of WB6 which took place in Berlin on the initiative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The idea of this conference was a drive to support economic growth and regional cooperation of the Western Balkans making additional progress in the reform process as a step forward towards full European Union membership.
In the following years, high-level meetings between the WB6 (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) and several EU Member States were held in Vienna (2015), Paris (2016), followed by Trieste (2017), London (2018), Poznan (2019), Sofia (2020) and Berlin in July 2021.
Throughout the years the Berlin Process has focused on key aspects for regional cooperation, namely: increasing prosperity via sustainable economic growth, fostering a more positive investment climate, infrastructure and energy, with interconnectivity with investment in infrastructure being seen as a means for creating jobs, business opportunities and other social and cultural benefits. Creating high-level political connections, reconciling people by stimulating youth exchanges and education projects, and resolving outstanding bilateral disputes, all while ensuring civil society participation in the whole process, are other significant aspects of this initiative.
During this process, the idea of establishing a Western Balkans Regional Economic Area emerged, an area where goods, services, investments and skilled workers would move without obstacles, creating a market of almost 20 million consumers that would be available and attractive to potential investors.
At the 2020 Sofia Summit, the WB6 Prime Ministers adopted the Common Regional Market (CRM) Action Plan 2021-2024 created with the support of the EC. CRM includes specific measures classified in four pillars: trade area, investment area, digital area and industrial and innovation area. The Summit in Berlin, after seven years at the same place, was a great opportunity on reviewing and exchanging ideas about the future activities of the Berlin Process. This online Summit, gathering the leaders of WB6 and other high-level representatives, reconfirmed the importance of further regional integration and strengthening of regional cooperation and emphasized further steps of building common regional market.
One of the outputs of previous Summit, second one held in Belgrade 2019, we have had as a result of this year, starting on 1 July. Free Roaming in the Western Balkan region open a new door for WB6 citizens to roam like at home.