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Central Europe: CEI Summit Opens, May Admit New Member

Graz, Austria; 8 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Central European Initiative (CEI) summit, grouping delegates from 16 Central and East European nations, got underway today in Graz, Austria.

The highlight of the two-day event, chaired by Austrian Federal Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, is Moldova's expected admission to the CEI as its 16th member. The other members include the Visegrad countries, plus Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and all the former Yugoslav republics, with the exception of Serbia and Montenegro.

Prior to today's opening events, the Austrian delegation plans to sign bilateral agreements with Ukraine and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. No details have been released.

Later, ministers are scheduled to hold a "heads of government" meeting likely to focus on the process of European integration and the organization's contribution to the implementation of the Dayton peace treaty and its work for reconstruction in Bosnia and Croatia.

Another likely topic is 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. Relations between the CEI and Russia, Turkey and Greece are also expected to be discussed over the next two days.

The Central European Initiative (CEI) serves as a forum for regional cooperation as an element of stability and cooperation in Europe. Slovakia's government office earlier told CTK it would be supporting the CEI's return to its original purpose of economic cooperation. Slovakia will also reportedly move that other CEI members follow it in approving the framework minority rights protection agreement submitted by CEI countries as early as 1990.