Western Balkan Countries

The integration of the Western Balkan Countries (WBC) in the European research area (ERA) and the promotion of interregional research cooperation as a contribution towards the Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) are of central importance for research policy, both for the region and for the European Union.

View on a city

© International Bureau/Ralf Hanatschek

Funding the cooperation

The cooperation with partners from the official EU membership candidates Albania, Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia also received funding in the context of the announcement of the Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF) on 15 December 2004 „Establishment and expansion of joint research structures in Europe“. The objective of the funding announcement was to support German partners in utilising knowledge and innovation potential in less research-intensive regions in Europe and to take on a leading role in the cooperation with partners from the target regions. At the same time, their suitability for joining the European Research Area was funded and the innovation gap within Europe was reduced.

On 3 November 2014, the BMBF published the announcement “International cooperation in education and research, Central Eastern and South-Eastern Europe region” (MOEL-SOEL announcement). This BMBF programme provides funding for schemes to prepare and apply for projects relating to the priority topics of the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon2020, and for other EU research programmes. Cooperation with all Western Balkan countries is also funded in the context of this announcement.

The BMBF has currently commissioned the International Bureau in the DLR Project Management Agency with processing the funding measures.

Political framework

Countries belonging to the Western Balkans include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Joining on 1 July 2013, Croatia was the 28th country to become a member of the European Union. Whereas FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania already have the official status of membership candidates, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Kosovo are only potential membership candidates at this point.

Under the Austrian Presidency of the European Council, the establishment of the “Steering Platform on Research for the Western Balkan countries" in 2006 played an important role in strengthening the political dialogue between the European Commission, the member states and associated states and the Western Balkan countries in the area of science and technology. This initiative takes place continuously at least once a year.

Priorities of the cooperation

The BMBF has for many years been a reliable (funding) partner for research, development and innovation (R&D&I) for German research institutions cooperating with partners in the WBC. In addition, the BMBF - and for it also the International Bureau at the DLR Project Management Agency - is involved in a number of European measures to strengthen the region:


Improving integration of the Western Balkan Countries in the European Research Area (ERA) was the aim of the EU-funded network project SOUTHEAST-EUROPEAN ERA-NET (SEE-ERA.Net). By linking the activities of Germany and its 13 partner countries within the framework of existing national, bilateral and regional research programmes with a special focus on South Eastern Europe, it was possible to define important milestones, such as a joint pilot call for proposals for network and research projects. Another milestone is the "White Paper" written under German leadership that defines the political strategies and recommendations for the future cooperation with the Western Balkan countries. An important effect of this EU project was also the integration of the new EU countries of Bulgaria and Romania into cross-regional R&D cooperation with the Western Balkans. All of the countries in the Western Balkans participated in SEE-ERA.NET. The project ran for a period of five years and ended in August 2009.


The central goal of the successor project SOUTHEAST-EUROPEAN ERA-NET PLUS (SEE-ERA.NET PLUS) was to issue a joint call for proposals for "Joint European Research Projects" (JERPS). Building on the experiences and results of the SEE-ERA.NET project, the aim was to drive the further integration of the South Eastern European countries, in particular the countries of the Western Balkans, in the European Research Area (ERA). The joint call for proposals was published on 1 September 2009. In addition to Germany, other countries participating in the call for proposals included Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Austria, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey. A total of 23 transnational research projects with a budget of around EUR 2.8 million were supported based on the joint funding. The project ended in July 2013.


Das WBC-INCO.NET (INCO-NET Western Balkans) was a European network project for bi-regional research policy dialogue between the EU, the states associated with the 7th EU research framework programme and the Western Balkan countries. It supported the "Steering Platform on Research for the Western Balkan Countries". The aim was to improve the participation of researchers in the target region in European R&D projects. The consortium of WBC.INCO.NET was comprised of 29 partners from 16 countries, including the ministries of research of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Austria, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey. Numerous research institutions and agencies also participate. The project got underway in January 2008 and ran until the end of April 2014.