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Central European Initiative
The Central European Initiative or CEI [http://www.ceinet.org], is a political, economical, cultural and scientific international organisation founded in 1989. 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.
Since its beginnings, the mandate of the Initiative has been to help transition countries in Central and Eastern Europe in their effort to integrate further with the European Union (EU) and achieve a higher level of socio-economic development. In a post-enlargement context, the CEI has shifted in focus towards those Member States remaining outside the EU. As such, the countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia including Kosovo) and the three CEI Member States part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine) are at present the areas where most of the CEI financial resources and technical expertise will converge.
Institutions and goals
In 1991 and 1992, the Italian government signed two Agreements with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) [http://www.ebrd.com]on the establishment of a CEI Trust Fund ‘to assist the Bank’s countries of operation in Central and Eastern Europe in their economic and social transformation processes’. Between 1992 and 2007 the fund, managed by the CEI Project Secretariat (CEI-PS) at EBRD, received a total contribution of € 28 million. In December 2007 a replenishment of the fund was granted by Italy, amounting to a further € 6 million for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010.
These funds have been actively utilised by the CEI-PS in order to fulfil the Initiative’s mission as an important actor in international diplomatic relations and development:
‘To assist the transformation of strategies and project ideas into bankable projects or fundable programmes, directly with project preparation and support, through business match-making of investors with financial and technical sources, and through the promotion of a favourable economic and institutional environment in CEI countries’.
In Trieste, the Chambers of Commerce of the CEI member states have launched a parallel cooperation programme. On 18 June 1994 the Trieste Chamber, with the collaboration of the Italian Union of Chambers of Commerce, hosted the first Conference of CEI Chamber Presidents and on 19 April 1995 held a conference on projects for reconstruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Funding Instruments: the CEI-Trust Fund
Through its Trust Fund at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Secretariat for CEI Projects promotes and supervises co-operation on investment projects alongside EBRD investments in a number of areas, including agriculture, transport, energy, SMEs, municipal infrastructure and services, banking, insurance, institutional and capacity building. Technical Cooperation (TC) is offered in the form of grant-type assistance in support of specific components of a project (i.e. feasibility and pre-feasibility studies, sector and environmental engineering, management training, capacity building, pre-loan audits).
By supporting the operations of the EBRD through specific TC commitments, the CEI strengthens the mandate of the Bank to foster transition towards multi-party democracies and market economies in the countries of operation. In so doing, the CEI - EBRD co-operation brings forth valuable synergies which are translated into needed assistance to the EBRD and its clients to overcome those obstacles caused by a lack of skills and legacies from the past still present in the region.
Through its Trust Fund, the CEI-PS also promotes and supervises “Development Programmes” in partnership with other IFIs and international organisations. Past examples have been the support offered to the CEI Business Advisory Service implemented by the EBRD BAS/TAM Team, and the ongoing cooperation with FAO [http://www.fao.org]and OECD [http://www.oecd.org]. Those partnerships specifically aim at strengthening the transfer of know-how, promoting reforms, economic transition, and finally the use and introduction of modern technologies.
Since its inception through to end-2007, the fund has funded projects for EUR 17,159,760.
Funding Instruments: The Know-how Exchange Programme
Established in 2004, the CEI Know-how Exchange Programme (KEP) [http://www.ceinet.org/main.php?pageID=164] is an instrument offering co-financing for development and technical assistance projects carried out between institutions in CEI Member States.
The KEP aims at facilitating the know-how transfer between the EU and the non-EU Member States of the CEI. Knowledge transfer of this kind is most likely to originate in the seven CEI Member States which joined the EU in May 2004 and in January 2007, since these countries have gained a specific expertise during their transformation and harmonisation process leading to EU membership. The KEP offers grants to institutions willing to share their experience with partners in non-EU countries.
Since its establishment, the Programme has found growing acceptance among CEI Member States which grew gradually more committed to sharing their experience in sectors of vital interest to EU candidate countries.
The Know-how Exchange Programme focuses on areas where institutions in the CEI donor countries have a long-standing experience, and the beneficiary states – the strongest need for assistance. Here, capacity building remains of a crucial importance for the CEI and is still highly ranked in the CEI Plan of Action 2007-2009. It plays a central role in the priority list of the Know-how Exchange Programme where it is conceived both as strengthening of proper policy and legal frameworks as well as human resources development. The capacity building in the KEP is not limited to the central administrations but it encompasses local governments and local authorities too. A number of areas of interest have been identified and grouped into four thematic blocks. Prioritises have been elaborated taking into account also country and sector strategies of International Organisations and IFIs operating in the region (i.e. EBRD, OECD, UNECE, the World Bank and others). The areas listed below comply also with development assistance priorities of most of the CEI-EU Member States, thus enabling project promoters to combine co-financing from KEP and national sources.
Projects can originate from all public and private sector bodies, international and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the public interest, e.g. national, regional and local authorities, education/research institutions, environmental organisations, Public-Private Partnerships, etc.
Most frequently the projects take the form of bilateral and trilateral activities undertaken between individual institutions of which one is located in a donor and the other in a beneficiary country. Multilateral projects can also be accepted and they are usually coordinated by international organisations or other institutions associating numerous CEI Member States. The latter type of projects have been successfully implemented in the past in cooperation with FAO, OECD, and the Assembly of European Regions.
The project proposals must guarantee an effective know-how transfer to a beneficiary institution. Examples of possible cooperation tools are:
• On-the-job training, secondment of staff and other training courses;
• Study tours;
• Assistance in negotiations;
• Assistance in the preparation of strategies, laws and other documents;
• Needs assessment;
• Management workshops for strategy issues;
• Assistance in establishing institutions;
• Setting up of administrative systems and computer software;
• Technology transfer for application of research and innovation.
From 2004 to 2007, a total of EUR 356,000 was committed to KEP projects, with EUR 140,126 committed in 2007 alone. Projects supported by the CEI within the KEP scheme have reached a total of nearly EUR 1 million.
* (2 August 2006)
*On 24 November 2006 Bulgaria assumed the rotating CEI presidency from Albania.
*On 27 November 2007 Moldova assumed the rotating CEI presidency from Bulgaria.[http://www.azi.md/news?ID=47119]
*Next year Romania is set to take over the presidency of the Central European Initiative (CEI) from the Republic of Moldova.[http://www.nineoclock.ro/index.php?page=detalii&categorie=homenews&id=20081128-10128]