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Central Europe: CEI Summit Accepts Moldova, Calls For Cooperation

Graz, Austria; 11 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - The Central European Initiative (CEI) held its annual summit in the Austrian city of Graz this weekend.

The admission of Moldova as the group's 16th member provided the highlight of the gathering. The CEI leaders issued also a wide-ranging document on regional cooperation.

The two-day event was chaired by Austrian Federal Chancellor Franz Vranitzky. The CEI members also include Italy, the four Visegrad countries, Albania Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and four of the former Yugoslav republics, without Serbia and Montenegro.

Vranitzky told a closing news conference that the final document focuses on the CEI's role in the process of European integration and the organization's contribution to the implementation of the Dayton peace treaty for Bosnia.

The CEI leaders identified as a first component of the CEI cooperative strategy the development of transport infrastructure projects within the region, including corridors affecting Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.

The leaders also expressed satisfaction about the successful participation of the CEI in the election monitoring process in Bosnia's national elections this past September. They said CEI shall continue to offer its services in the region, such as during next year's municipal elections in Bosnia, twice postponed due to problems in voter registration and adherence to Dayton principles.

The document also expressed the view that the CEI should further develop its cooperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which oversaw Bosnia's national elections. The CEI says such cooperation would enhance security and stability in the region. To this effect, the leaders agreed on a joint CEI message to be submitted to the next OSCE summit in Lisbon, Portugal to be held on next month.

Separately, the CEI took note of the invitation to attend the November 24 Republican referendum in Belarus, issued by the Central Electoral Commission there. The CEI agreed to study the issue.

According to the document, the CEI summit also approved a proposal to establish a working group at expert level to prepare the grounds for a gradual harmonization of institutional and legislative frameworks to improve the combat of drug related crimes and money laundering in CEI member states.

Vranitzky said the meeting also laid out principles for the development of relations between CEI and other regional cooperation organizations such as the Council of the Baltic Sea states and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Council. He said efforts to further relations between the CEI and Russia, Turkey and Greece are also called for in the document.

The Central European Initiative (CEI) serves as a forum for regional cooperation and an element of stability and cooperation in Europe as a whole. Bosnia-Herzegovina next takes up the rotating CEI Presidency and the hosting of next year's summit, scheduled for Sarajevo.