The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the Central European Initiative (CEI) held their annual meeting in Trieste on 10 June 2011. It was organised in cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Serbia and the CEI-Executive Secretariat (CEI-ES).
The meeting was chaired by H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, which holds the CEI Presidency for 2011, and was attended by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Albania, Belarus, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Slovenia and Ukraine. The Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Austria, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Poland and Romania and high representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovakia also attended the meeting. Representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Adriatic Ionian Initiative (AII), the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) were present at the meeting in their capacity of Special Guest. The CEI Secretary General also participated in the meeting.
The discussion focused on the core mission of the CEI: Regional Cooperation for European Integration.
Reviewing the situation within the CEI region, the Ministers welcomed the progress made by many non-EU CEI Member States towards a closer relationship with the European Union. The Ministers noted with satisfaction today’s statement of the President of the European Commission who has proposed to the EU Council of Ministers to close the last four chapters in the accession negotiations with Croatia. This paves the way for Croatia to join the EU as the 28th Member State as of 1 July 2013, if this indicative date proposed by the Commission were to be retained by the Council. They welcomed the continued approach of Macedonia to the accession negotiations. They also welcomed the decision of the European Council to grant candidate status to Montenegro. They highlighted Serbia’s steady progress towards achieving EU candidate status and the continuation of an EU-facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. They noted the efforts towards EU integration by Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina as illustrated by visa liberalisation. Furthermore, the Ministers recalled the importance of regional cooperation for Belarus, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine in the CEI framework. They noted with satisfaction the dynamic negotiations of the EU and the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine on Association Agreement and visa dialogue Action Plan. At the same time, the Ministers commended the continuous support of the EU Member States aiming at strengthening the relations between EU and non-EU CEI Member States.
The Ministers acknowledged the opportunity for the CEI to adopt a consistent approach to the concept of EU macro-regional strategies considering that the Initiative encompasses an area where currently two macro-regional strategies - Baltic Sea and Danube basin – meet - and a third – Adriatic-Ionian – has been developing. In this context, the Ministers took note of the role of the CEI to enhance the implementation of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region as well as of the interest expressed by some CEI Member States to elaborate an EU macro-regional strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian area. They underlined the opportunity for the CEI to contribute to the securing of synergies between the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the EU Strategy for the Danube Region. They also welcomed a strengthening of regional cooperation within the Eastern Partnership framework.
The Ministers analysed the results and acknowledged the achievements reached so far in the implementation of the Budva Recommendations on the strengthening of the CEI, adopted during 2010 by the previous Ministerial Meeting in Montenegro and proposed further steps for the implementation of the Recommendations. They particularly commended the Secretary General and his team for the excellent results in assisting the strengthening of the CEI and encouraged him to continue along the same lines.
In this context, the Ministers welcomed activities undertaken within the CEI with a view to enhancing cooperation with the EU, in particular the EC, as well as with the European Parliament and the European External Action Service (EEAS). The final objective is to arrive at a cooperation agreement with the EC, aimed at deepening the contacts and establishing synergies.
The Ministers agreed that close cooperation with other European regional initiatives and organisations is useful to further the CEI goals as it helps to coordinate the calendar and the agenda of major political events. They acknowledged the excellent work done by the CEI to promote cooperation with other regional initiatives and organisations, in particular with the AII, the BSEC and the RCC. Through this cooperation the CEI can strengthen its bonds with all the dynamically developing and strategic regions of the Baltic Sea, Danube basin, Adriatic Ionian Sea and the Black Sea in view of CEI’s involvement in EU macro-regional strategies and priorities.
The Ministers agreed to review the current scale of contributions to the CEI Cooperation Fund. The Ministers mandated the CNC to take the final decision on this matter before the end of the year 2011.
The Ministers recalled the relevance of cooperation between the CEI and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). They particularly highlighted the crucial impact of projects implemented through the CEI Trust Fund at the EBRD, funded by Italy with 32.5 million euro since 1992 and aimed at supporting international investments in CEI non-EU countries. As it has been stated, with more than 2.9 billion euro of international investments mobilised, the CEI Fund at the EBRD remains an example of best practice. In this regard, the Ministers took note of the proposal of the EBRD to create a CEI Policy Dialogue Multi-Donor Fund. They also took note that the EBRD will define rules for participation to the Fund which will take into due consideration the economical constraints characterising the current global conjuncture.
The Ministers discussed the possibility to initiate the procedure for obtaining an observer status for the CEI in the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). They invited the CEI Secretariat to prepare a background documentation, which will provide the basis to the CEI Presidency, with the assistance of the CEI Enlarged Troika, to take the necessary steps.
The Ministers reaffirmed the need for continued promotion of the development of the civil society and encouraged the creation of a wide network of NGO’s in the CEI region whose role will be to provide additional support to regional cooperation, EU integration and to promote EU standards. The Ministers expressed hope that such a network, once sufficiently vibrant and representative of CEI common values and principles, will be able to help ensure an increased involvement of the civil society sector in further promoting regional projects.
Acknowledging the relevance of inter-regional cooperation to ensure the effectiveness of security and stability in a global perspective, the Ministers support the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) global effort aimed at stopping illicit shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). They welcomed the opportunity to expand their mutual cooperation in nuclear security education, through the Trieste International School on Nuclear Security.
The Ministers expressed their gratitude to the Government of Serbia and the CEI Secretariat for the excellent organisation of the Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the CEI Member States in Trieste.