From 1 January to 31 December 2014 Austria is presiding the Central European Initiative (CEI).
During Austria’s presidency the CEI will celebrate its 25th anniversary.
The motto of the Austrian presidency is “The CEI as a Bridge between European Macro Regions/Synergies with other International and Regional Organizations”.
The Central European Initiative (CEI) was founded in 1989 by Austria (neutral), Hungary (Warsaw pact), Italy (NATO) and Yugoslavia (non-aligned). Today it consists of 18 member states, 10 of which are EU members (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia) and 8 non-EU members (Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine).
In December 2011 the CEI was granted observer status in the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Due to the diversity of its members, the CEI is in a unique position to act as a bridge between macro-regions, e.g. Adriatic, Alpine, Baltic, Black Sea, Danube, South East Europe etc. The CEI as the oldest and biggest intergovernmental forum in Central Europa supports especially the Western Balkan states in their efforts of obtaining EU membership.
The headquarters of the CEI are located in Trieste. The positions of the Secretary General and of her/his alternate traditionally rotate between Austria and Italy which are the main contributors to the CEI budget. Today the Italian diplomat Giovanni Caracciolo di Vietri holds the function of the Secretary General, the Austrian diplomat Margit Waestfelt is his Alternate.
The CEI also holds a trust fund at the EBRD. Out of the contributions the CEI finances activities and projects for cultural, economic and scientific cooperation while focusing on future EU memberships or the EU Neighborhood Policy. Priority is given to capacity building of the non-EU CEI Member States (e.g. technological development, transport and energy).
The CEI Know-how Exchange Program (KEP) was established in 2004 as an instrument for co-financing projects fostering the transfer of know-how and best practices from EU to non-EU CEI Member States which are seeking EU integration and alignment to EU standards. KEP is mainly financed by Italy and Austria.
Meetings of the Prime Ministers (this year on 24 November back to back with the yearly conference of the Vienna Economic Forum), Ministers of Foreign Affairs (this year on 03 June back to back with a Western Balkans Conference) as well as other Ministers, Parliamentarians and National Coordinators of the member countries take place on a regular basis. To underline the importance of Vienna as the third Headquarters of the United Nations and seat of a number of other international organizations and to promote the CEI cooperation philosophy the Austrian CEI Presidency invited 18 regional and international organizations on the occasion of the first meeting of the National Coordinators on 24 January in Vienna. On 9 October, a CEI seminar is organized on the protection of the rights of minorities. (see attachment).
The Vienna Economic Forum is also a strategic CEI partner and will implement most of the economy related activities during the Austrian presidency.