By no means all representatives of 18 member states were present at the meeting of the Central European Initiative (CEI) prime ministers, which took place in Minsk on December, 12. But still, the Belarusian authorities are trumpeting our country’s participation in the regional forum.
The presidency of the CEI has become a ‘challenge’ and ‘extremely rewarding experience’ for Belarus, Prime Minister Andrey Kabyakou said at Tuesday’s meeting.
It is not so easy for an average Belarusian to understand what the Central European Initiative is. The association includes 18 countries: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Belarus, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine. By the way, Poland and Ukraine might be our neighbours but they were represented at the ambassadorial level at the meeting.
The CEI was founded in 1989. Its strategic objectives are the following: Support CEI Member States on their path towards European integration; promoting the alignment of CEI Member States to EU standards; implementing small and medium-sized projects. Since then, the vast majority of the CEI members have joined the EU. More influential initiatives, such as the European Partnership, have been established to cooperate with the rest. Hasn’t the CEI run dry?
“The participation is doing good to Belarus; it is better to sit at the same table with Ukrainians and other European countries than to be just a satellite of Moscow,” politician Vital Rymasheuski believes.
First of all, it is the economic benefits that matter for the Belarusian authorities. The Balkan countries hardly have a lot in common with our region. But Minsk is ready to come up with infrastructural and business projects.
“Of course, we should not exaggerate the importance of the CEI, it is just one of the regional organizations for cooperation. The matter of prestige is secondary; the case is that how we can use the opportunities provided by the CEI,” political analyst Yauhen Preyherman says.
On Tuesday, Belarus transferred the presidency to Croatia. It is highly likely that the organization itself will also change their focus. This raises the question of whether and when Belarusians will hear something about the Central European Initiative again.