Mobility and migration in the Western Balkans (WB6) have profound implications for the region and its evolving relationship with the European Union (EU). There is a pressing need to address the challenges in the region and capitalize on the potential of mobility for fostering regional development and integration into the EU. Research and innovation (R&I) and knowledge transfer in the WB6 constitute a transformative potential of accelerating sustainable growth and convergence of the WB economies with the EU, which can be attained only if the pressing challenges of R&I and mobility-driven innovation in the region are addressed in a timely and systematic manner. Even though the WB6 have made significant strides in aligning their R&I ecosystems with EU standards, steadfast support and investment in mobility-driven R&I – intra-regionally and with the EU – are still needed.
To this end, under SCiDEV’s lead, a thematic working group (TWG) explored the potential to boost regional cooperation and create shared values among the WB6 and the EU through inclusive regional mobility. It deliberated on how enhanced cooperation and sustained support in mobility-driven R&I are pivotal for equipping the WB6 with the requisite tools and knowledge to address shared challenges, such as climate change and digital transformation while curbing brain drain and fostering a generation of innovators who can reshape the region’s future.
Since June 2023, four consultation meetings have been held, bringing together a multi-disciplinary group of stakeholders (43 participants), including representatives from universities and research centers, intergovernmental organisations, civil society organisations, think tanks from the Western Balkans countries (WB6), and the EU. A final public consultation event was held in September, and a presentation at the Joint Science Conference of the Berlin Process. SCiDEV hosted a high-level panel discussion during the 2023 Civil Society and Think Tank Forum of the Berlin Process in Tirana on 14-15 October 2023. The discussions centred on promoting regional mobility, engaging the diaspora, integrating the Western Balkans’ higher education and scientific research systems with European frameworks, and enhancing regional and EU research collaboration. The findings and recommendations were validated during advocacy visits in Berlin and Brussels and networking events in Sarajevo and Munich in September 2023. SCiDEV synchronized the key recommendations with the Joint Science Conference, as evidenced by the Joint Science Conference Statement.
This policy paper addresses the state of affairs, identifies barriers and areas for improvement, and proposes concrete recommendations for the Leader’s Summit of the Berlin Process. The insights presented herein are reinforced by a collaborative advocacy strategy, which seeks to engage pivotal stakeholders within the WB6 and the EU.
This policy paper is prepared by the Center Science and Innovation for Development (SCiDEV) as the leader of the Thematic Working Group on Mobility and Migration, part of the 2023 Civil Society and Think Tank Forum (CSF2023) of the Berlin Process.
Authors: Blerjana Bino, Abi Dodbiba, Aneta Cekikj, Orkidea Xhaferaj, Lutjona Lula, Dea Elmasllari
Reviewer: Gentian Elezi and Isabelle Ioannides
Proofreading: Lawrence Marzouk
Access all publications of the CSF2023 here.