“I hope that this session will be a forum for exchanging good practices and mutual support, both within the Western Balkans and between the Western Balkans and the European Union,” said the chief of Polish diplomacy Jacek Czaputowicz at the opening of the Berlin Process foreign ministers’ meeting.
The Warsaw meeting was the first gathering at the ministerial level during the Polish Presidency of the Berlin Process (BP) – an initiative that supports regional cooperation of the Western Balkans and complements the EU’s enlargement policy. Our country has been engaged in the Process since 2018. “Poland joined the Berlin Process, because we strongly believed that we can bring added value on account of our systemic and economic reforms that led to our accession to the European Union,” underscored the MFA head. He observed in this context that Poland supports the European aspirations of its Western Balkan partners also in bilateral contacts. “We want to share our experience gained during systemic and economic transformations and our accession to the European Union,” he added.
The event commenced on 11 April with a dinner hosted by President Andrzej Duda, during which current challenges facing the Western Balkans and our whole continent were discussed. President Duda underscored that the Western Balkans are an important component of a stable and prosperous Europe and drew attention to the need to take joint efforts so that the Western Balkans summit in Poznan yields concrete results. He also said he was confident that Poland and the Central European region could play a significant role in bringing a closer Euro-Atlantic perspective for the Balkan countries. The situation of young people in the Western Balkans was also a high point of the debate. The meeting participants addressed issues such as employment, education, culture, entrepreneurship and the young people’s role in building good neighbourly relations in the region. Cooperation between young people from the Western Balkans and the EU is an important measure for building ties between our societies. On this occasion, representatives of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) were invited to the meeting at the Presidential Palace.
The discussion during the second day of the ministerial meeting focused on regional cooperation and open bilateral issues in the region. These issues, in the opinion of the chief of Polish diplomacy, needed to be resolved in order to fully tap into the potential of economic and infrastructural cooperation.
“We will be talking about good neighbourly relations, because they are key to successful cooperation in all other areas: the economy, infrastructural projects, culture, science and development of people-to-people contacts,” underscored Minister Czaputowicz. In this context, he referred to the breakthrough successes in this field – the Prespa Agreement on the name of the state signed by Greece and North Macedonia, the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Good-Neighbourly Relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia, and the regional Agreement to Reduce Roaming Charges signed by the “Balkan Six” last week. The MFA head also argued that building connectivity is one of the most important dimensions of the Berlin Process, facilitating the movement of people and ideas.
At the meeting, the deputy head of Polish MFA Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk, the Government Plenipotentiary for the Organisation of the Western Balkans Summit, outlined the programme of the Polish Presidency of the Berlin Process and the state of play ahead of the Poznan Summit. In addition to a Civil Society Forum and a Business Forum, a think tank forum will be organised for the first time in Poznan.
The Berlin Process participants are the six Western Balkan countries (Montenegro, Serbia, North Macedonia, and Albania) that have the status of EU candidate countries and (Bosnia and Hercegovina, Kosovo) which are potential EU candidate countries and are covered by the Union’s enlargement policy. The other Berlin Process participants are some EU Member States – Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Greece, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and Italy. The European Commission, international financial institutions, international and regional organisations also take part in the Berlin Process work.
The Warsaw ministerial was a preparatory meeting ahead of the Western Balkans summit in Poznan, which will take place on 5 July this year.
Minister Jacek Czaputowicz also held bilateral talks with the chief of German diplomacy Heiko Maas. The ministers discussed the calendar of events and Polish-German meetings in the next few months and the scope of German-Polish cooperation at multilateral forums, including in the UN Security Council.
In the afternoon, the two ministers took part in a public debate on the future of the European Union.