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Central European Initiative (CEI) Local Dimension Kick-off Event held with the CoR participation  

The event took place on 12 November 2021 in fully remote format, co-organised by CEI and the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro (UOM). Roberto Ciambetti (IT/ECR), President of the Regional Council of Veneto and Co-Chair of the Joint Consultative Committee between the CoR and Montenegro, represented the Committee of the Regions.

CEI is the oldest regional initiative in Central and South East Europe. It was established in 1989 and currently has 18 member states, both EU members: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, and non-members: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Rep. of Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, and Ukraine. Its main objectives are promotion of cooperation between the states of Central, Eastern and South East Europe, aiding its members in their transition to stable democracy and market economy, and helping the EU enlargement process.

CEI Presidency is annual rotating based on alphabetic order. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, Montenegro has been holding the Presidency for two years in a row, 2020 and 2021. Bulgaria will take it over from 1 January 2022.

CEI Local Dimension has been established following the proposal of the Parliamentary Committee of CEI, with the support of the ministries of foreign affairs of CEI member states.

In his opening remarks, Refik Bojadžić, Secretary General of UOM, shared the view that the establishment of its Local Dimension will significantly help CEI to reach its objectives. Talking about the regional cooperation in the Western Balkans, Bojadžić said, " Regional cooperation is now perceived as the first, and not as the last choice . However, serious political and economic challenges still exist."

CEI Secretary General Roberto Antonione emphasised that „CEI has always supported local and regional authorities' cooperation, at both political and project level".

Roberto Ciambetti expressed the full commitment of the CoR to the EU enlargement and cooperation with the countries aspiring to become EU member states. Joint consultative committees of the CoR with the three Balkans countries (North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia), and the CoR working groups for Turkey and the Western Balkans are the most important tools for this cooperation.

Chair of CEI Parliamentary Dimension Tamara Vujović MP (Montenegro) expressed support of the CEI parliamentarians to the newly established CEI Local Dimension.

CEI Deputy Secretary General Zoran Jovanović presented CEI's institutional and project activities, as well as financial mechanisms.

Among the speakers were also Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), Kelmend Zajazi, Executive Director of the Network of Local Authorities' Associations in South East Europe (NALAS), and Ugo Poli from CEI.

A number of participants from the associations of local authorities took part in discussion.

Next meeting of CEI Local Dimension is planned for mid-2022 in Bulgaria.​

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