The 7th Annual Conference of Stakeholders of the Science, Education, Research and Innovation Chapter of the Berlin Process for the Western Balkans, took place between 19 and 20 September in Tirana, Albania.
Mrs Ruta Zarnauskaite, Head of Unit, Horizon Europe Association represented the European Commission and DG Research and Innovation in the panel dedicated to the Outlook and Opportunities for the Western Balkans in the area of Research and Innovation. The session focused on the policy aspects of the higher education, research and innovation sector in the Western Balkans, as well as the Berlin Process and its attention to this sector, highlighting the priorities of its incumbent Albanian Presidency.
In addition, it emphasised the association of Western Balkans countries to Horizon Europe, and their involvement in the European Research Area. Aspects on the prospects of the integration of the Western Balkans into the EU were also addressed by the panelists.
Mrs Zarnauskaite highglighted the positive growth path that all Western Balkan economies have taken in the last years, which is underpinned by increased participation in Horizon Europe and advancements in Smart Specialisation Strategy formulation and implementation. She underlined the importance of R&I in human capital development and, most notably, as a key instrument and enabler for sustained economic growth. This progress is evident by both, the universities and other entities applying to Horizon Europe as well as by the government authorities who are increasing the support for the sector, undertake important reforms, and adopt new R&I strategies.
The panelists stressed the importance of Horizon Europe Widening actions in supporting the region, advocating for a ringfenced initiative that fosters Western Balkan researchers to work better together. The devastating effect of the brain drain in the region was highlighted as a key challenge for the whole region.
While there is an overall positive trend in R&I performance, there is still a lot of work ahead to fully use the great potential of the Western Balkans R&I ecosystem.
- Publication date
- 25 September 2023
- Directorate-General for Research and Innovation