Policy background

The Western Balkans consists of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro , Kosovo * and Serbia. All have a perspective to accede to the European Union and hence are also called 'enlargement countries'.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence

A European Council meeting in 2003 adopted the 'Thessaloniki agenda for the Western Balkans: Moving towards European Integration'.

The EU's enlargement policy (COM(2015)611: EU Enlargement Strategy, COM(2016)715: 2016 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy) underlines the necessity to invest in peace, security and stability. It stresses that an accession process offering a credible prospect of EU membership is vital to enhance the resilience of countries in the Western Balkans (EEAS Global Strategy: 'Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe, A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign And Security Policy', 06/2016) and to spur transformation in these countries.

As of 2016 the innovation dimension was added to the structural reform agenda of the national Economic Reform Programmes (N.B. As of 2015, all candidate countries and potential candidates submit annual Economic Reform Programmes (ERPs) that mimic the European Semester process). These programmes contain a structural reform agenda to boost competitiveness and improve conditions for growth and job creation.

The 'Western Balkans Regional R&D Strategy for Innovation' Study (World Bank, 10/2013) claims that unleashing the Western Balkans’ innovative potential would generate important economic gains (e.g. investing 3% of GDP into research and innovation will generate a 6% increase of GDP and a 13% increase in exports).

Projects and results

Research project database (CORDIS)

EU-funded projects involving the Western Balkans

Project success stories

Stories of particularly successful EU-funded research projects.


National Contact Points

The National Contact Points (NCPs) provide guidance, practical information and assistance on all aspects of participation in Horizon 2020.



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