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Strategic foresight in the Western Balkans: recovery on the horizon

60 pages, pdf
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Strategic foresight in the Western Balkans: recovery on the horizon

Publisher: European Commission

Volume: 60 pages, pdf


In July 2020, representatives from the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia) and the European Commission jointly decided to commission a study on the possible futures of Research and Innovation (R&I) policies in the region in 2035. Using a Strategic Foresight approach, the study supports policy-makers in creating an enabling environment for R&I policies to thrive and decide on priorities for strategic investments for the future. The report relies on two interlinked online surveys with stakeholders from the region, various expert interviews and nine extensive virtual workshops to harness experts’ views about the possible futures. Throughout this process, three plausible scenarios on how R&I policies could evolve in the Western Balkans in 2035 were co-created. None of them intends to adequately describe (let alone predict) the actual and full environment for R&I policies in 2035. Instead, the scenarios aim to sensitise policy-makers in the Western Balkans for different possible futures and for actions they can take today to shape the future they want.

Scenario 1, entitled “Joining the Common Market” outlines a potential future in which Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia have become members of the European Union (EU) by the year 2035. While access to the common market has boosted cooperation in R&I beyond borders, talented youngsters use the free movement to pursue their careers in the “old EU member states”.

Scenario 2, "Looking beyond EU borders", constitutes a scenario in which accession negotiations have come to a standstill. The premise is a cooling relationship between an EU which is increasingly preoccupied with itself due to internal and external shocks and the WB for whom the integration perspective has lost its original appeal. On the one hand, this opens up a partial geopolitical vacuum; while on the other, it is accompanied by a change of perspective and new scope for action.

In the third scenario, a pro-business attitude facilitates exchanges and cooperation between various R&I actors in the Western Balkans. The new dogma “Putting Business First” – as this scenario is called – trumps previous political divides and has strengthened free trade through the Open Balkan agreement and created spill-over effects among the Western Balkans.

The report concludes with initial roadmaps tailored for each of the WB that shall inspire decision-makers with goals and actions needed to further develop their R&I systems. The goals and measures described in the roadmap can be applied to any of the potential future developments outlined in the scenarios. The findings from the roadmaps provide key lessons that were identified and implications that may support decision makers to design and implement forward-looking policies in R&I. Eventually, the study provides a future outlook and contextualises the endeavour in the ongoing and future initiatives of the European Commission and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC).