The South-East Cooperation Process is launched in Sofia in 1996 with the adoption of the Declaration on Good-Neighbourly Relations, Stability, Security and Cooperation in the Balkans (7th July, 1996) 

Four priorities for the future development of the region are outlined in the Sofia Declaration:
1. Regional security: enhancing good-neighbourliness and mutual trust
2. Economic growth: developing economic cooperation by encouraging cross-border cooperation, improving the transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructure and the general investment climate;
3. Social and cultural development: promotion of humanitarian cooperation by improving social and cultural communication between countries;
4. Legal affairs and fight against crime: cooperation in the field of justice, combating organized crime and illegal trade in weapons and drugs, and fighting terrorism.

The next important step was taken the following year when on 3-4 November 1997 the Heads of State or Government of Southeast European countries met in Crete. This summit meeting represents a firm starting point in the evolutionary process of co-operation in the region. Being the first of its kind in the history of Southeast European co-operation, the summit has identified the main actors of this process.The leaders of the participating countries agreed that they should work together to create in their region conditions for the prosperity of their nations in a framework of peace, security, good neighbourliness and stability. For the first time the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions and organizations were clearly identified as the target of SEE countries.With this strong commitment, the Crete summit further outlined the content of the regional co-operation in Southeast Europe.

All these endeavours led to the elaboration of a strategic political document  which had became the principle platform for the further development of the SEECP – the Charter on Good Neighbourly Relations, Stability, and Security adopted in Bucharest at the meeting of South East European Heads of State and Ministers on 12th February 2000.

The Charter more clearly outlined the goals of cooperation and the tools for achieving it:

1. Enhancement of political and security cooperation
2. Fostering economic cooperation
3.Enlargement of cooperation in the fields of human dimension, democracy, justice and combating illegal activities

Each of these goals was also accompanied by specific instruments which gave their implementation a more tangible nature. In the field of political cooperation, regular meetings were planned at two levels: the executive and legislative branches of power. Emphasis was also given to the non-governmental sector which was to be more actively involved at these two levels. For the first time so much attention was given to joint action mechanisms and programmes. Specific steps and actions were planned, especially in the field of security and economy, to be implemented both at the regional and national level for the purpose of strengthening regional cooperation. The legal base and principles of regional cooperation were clearly defined.