The EU's enlargement policy deals with the countries currently aspiring to become members of the European Union. There are strict conditions for membership to ensure that new members are admitted only when they are fully able to take on the obligations of EU membership. This includes compliance with all the EU's standards and rules. For the purpose of accession negotiations, these are divided into 35 different policy fields (chapters).
A number of cross-cutting policy issues are of concern to most countries aspiring to join the EU, including:
For smart specialisation, Chapters 24 (science & research) and 22 (regional policy & coordination of structural instruments) are the most relevant negotiation items.
Smart Specialisation strategies are an expression of sound innovation policies and as such are of interest not only to EU member states, but also to non-EU countries willing to improve their innovation ecosystems. To support participatory and evidence-based processes in the EU Neighbourhood countries, the S3 Platform developed a pilot project that supports the early preparatory phases of the development of research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation in one EU enlargement country - Serbia.
Serbia as the pilot enlargement country is at the early stages of developing of their innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3) and need targeted support in mapping their economic and research fabric, internally organising a coherent approach, and mobilising and coordinating relevant stakeholders through an entrepreneurial discovery process. The support provided should enable local stakeholders to gain the competences needed for continuing strategy design and implementation in the future. Exchange of good practices among the pilot targeted countries of the S3 Platform activities can provide additional insights for the development of RIS3 outside the EU.
As of 2018, the remaining five Western Balkan economies have joined Serbia in developing smart specialisation strategies. The information on the status quo of smart specialisation processes in all Western Balkan economies can be found on the links to the economies in the left-side menu.
The latest event to bring together all heads of smart specialisation teams of the Western Balkans is the Conference “Supporting Smart Specialisation Strategies and Technology Transfer in South-East Europe under the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU" which will be held in Bucharest on June 18, 2019. The conference in Bucharest represents a continuation of the "Sofia process", which was initiated during the conference "Smart Specialisation and Technology Transfer as Innovation Drivers for Regional Growth" held in Sofia in May 2018. The Sofia High-Level Conference set the tone for adopting Smart Specialisation, technology transfer and digital economy initiatives in South-East Europe, including the Western Balkans and energise the process triggered by the Bulgarian Presidency's emphasis on the Western Balkans. The presence of the Smart Specialisation national teams of the Western Balkan economies at the conference also provided the opportunity to make agreements on Smart Specialisation roadmaps for each economy under guidance of the JRC, which, on its side, committed to providing support to each Western Balkan economy in their Smart Specialisation efforts.