The Central European Initiative (CEI) is a forum of regional cooperation in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe, counting 18 member states. It was formed in Budapest in 1989. The CEI headquarters are based in Trieste (Italy) since 1996.
The Central European Initiative or CEI, is the largest and oldest forum of regional cooperation in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. It now counts 18 member states: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. The origin of the Central European Initiative lies in the creation of the Quadragonale in Budapest on 11 November 1989 whose founding fathers were Italy, Austria, Hungary and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).
The Initiative aimed at overcoming the division in blocks by re-establishing cooperation links, among countries of different political orientations and economic structures.
At the first Summit in Venice in 1990, Czechoslovakia was admitted and the Initiative was renamed Pentagonale. In 1991, with the admission of Poland it became the Hexagonale.
The organisation was renamed Central European Initiative (CEI) in 1992. On the same occasion, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia were admitted as Member States.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia were admitted to the CEI in 1993 following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. In 1996 Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine joined the CEI as full-fledged members.
The current membership derives from the adhesion of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (afterwards State Union of Serbia and Montenegro and later on Serbia) in 2000 and of Montenegro in 2006.
The CEI aims at achieving cohesion in areas of mutual interest and at assisting its non-EU member countries in consolidating their economic and social development. In this regard, the CEI Plan of Action defines the organisation’s priorities within the established areas of cooperation.
Once predominantly oriented towards policy dialogue, the CEI has progressively added economic growth and human development as pillars of cooperation with a focus on capacity building, sharing experience and know-how transfer.
A number of CEI activities and projects are also strategically developed within EU programmes as well as with other international and regional organisations. The CEI also cooperates with other organisations such as the RCC, BSEC, the OSCE etc.
Areas of Cooperation: Towards a Knowledge-based Society: Research and Innovation; lifelong Education and Training; Information Society. Towards a Sustainable economy and development: Transport, Logistics and Accessibility; Energy Efficiancyand Renewable Energy; Climate, Environment and Rural Development; SMEs and Business Development. Towards and Inclusive Society: Intercultural Cooperation; Media; Civil Society.
The CEI operates through various structures: – Annual Meeting of the Heads of Government (CEI Summit). – Annual Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs (MFA Meeting). – Regular meetings of the CEI Committee of National Coordinators (CNC).
The CNC, composed of representatives of Foreign Ministries of all Member States, is the body responsible for the management of CEI cooperation and the implementation of CEI programmes and projects. Meetings at ministerial as well as expert level are also convened upon the initiative of the annually rotating CEI Presidency.
Working bodies such as the Networks of Focal Points, designated in specific sectors by the governments of its 18 Member States, operate in each CEI area of activity. The CEI - Executive Secretariat (CEI-ES), is the only permanent CEI body and was established in Trieste in 1996. It provides administrative and conceptual support to the decision-making and operational structures of the CEI.
The Secretariat for CEI Projects (CEI-PS), established in 1991 at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), maintains offices both in Trieste and London and carries out investment and project-related activities.
Participation in EU programmes started in 2004, with the aim to foster territorial cooperation among CEI countries – with particular attention to the involvement of non-EU CEI Member States in EU funded projects - and to expand existing experience in CEI’s priority areas.
Financial support for the functioning of the Secretariat is provided by Italy. Another important element of the CEI is the cooperation promoted among the Parliaments of the CEI Member States or what is known as the CEI Parliamentary Dimension. Relations are also maintained among the Chambers of Commerce of the Region.
As of 1 January 2013, Ambassador Giovanni Caracciolo di Vietri (Italy) has taken up his duties as Secretary General.
CEI Presidencies – 1989 Hungary. – 1990 Italy. – 1991 SFR Yugoslavia. – 1992 Austria. – 1993 Hungary. – 1994 Italy. – 1995 Poland. – 1996 Austria. – 1997 Bosnia and Herzegovina. – 1998 Croatia. – 1999 Czech Republic. – 2000 Hungary. – 2001 Italy. – 2002 Macedonia. – 2003 Poland. – 2004 Slovenia. – 2005 Slovakia. – 2006 Albania. – 2007 Bulgaria. – 2008 Moldova. – 2009 Romania. – 2010 Montenegro. - 2011 Serbia. - 2012 Ukraine - 2013 Hungary - 2014 Austria - 2015 Macedonia - 2016 Bosnia and Herzegovina. - 2017 Belarus.
Founding members: Austria (1989)
SFR Yugoslavia (1989–1992)
Joined later: Czechoslovakia (1990–1992)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992)
Czech Republic (1993)
FR Yugoslavia (2000–2006)
Montenegro (2 August 2006)