Joint Science Conference of the Western Balkans Process presents Plan to control coronavirus pandemic in the region
Participants at the 6th Joint Science Conference of the Western Balkans Process have developed a „10 Point Plan“ to control the coronavirus pandemic in the Western Balkans. Participants at the virtual two-day meeting also discussed priorities for the time after the pandemic in the Western Balkans and South East Europe. These include a decent healthcare system, climate neutrality, reduction of air and water pollution, and the digitalization of education, public administration, industry and healthcare. The conference was jointly organized by the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Polish Academy of Sciences as part of the Western Balkans Process.
„We need to identify the lessons learned from this pandemic. The first logical consequence is to strengthen pandemic preparedness and crisis resilience,“ stated Professor (ETHZ) Dr Gerald Haug, President of the Leopoldina, at the virtual meeting.
In their „10 Point Plan“, the participants recommend short-, mid-, and long-term measures for the next two years to control and contain the pandemic in South East Europe and on the European continent: Higher number of vaccines for the Western Balkan countries and accelerated vaccination, pan-European standards for travel and mobility in testing and forgery-proof use of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, and more humanitarian aid from the European Union (EU) as a sign of European solidarity.
The EU funds mobilized for the recovery and resilience of the Western Balkans should be primarily used to create an efficient health care system, to achieve the goal of climate neutrality with an emphasis on reducing air and water pollution, and to digitalize education, public administration, industry and health care. In order to achieve sustainable success, however, investments in education and science (research and innovation) in the Balkans are needed, especially to stop the „brain drain“ from South East Europe. Therefore, the conference participants called for the „Western Balkans Research Fund“ to be included as a new funding instrument in the EU’s Horizon Europe framework programme.
The Western Balkans Process ‒ also known as the Berlin Process ‒ is a joint initiative of 16 European countries and the European Commission. It supports the efforts to integrate the region into the European Union and foster regional cooperation. The Process covers areas such as the resolution of bilateral disputes, endorsement of rule of law, connectivity, and economic development as well as strengthening the cooperation in education, science (research and innovation) and inter-societal dialogue. Seventeen parties are currently involved in the Process: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Commission.