Central European Initiative Summit Starts, Orban Draws Protesters

By 4 December 2018

ZAGREB, December 4, 2018 - The prime ministers of Albania, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania and Slovakia on Monday arrived in Zagreb for a two-day Central European Initiative summit meeting (CEI), and were welcomed at a dinner by their host, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković of Croatia, which is holding the presidency of the 18-strong CEI regional initiative in 2018.

The official dinner in Zagreb began on Monday evening with Edi Rama of Albania, Viktor Orban of Hungary, Zoran Zaev of Macedonia, Vasilia Victoria Dancila of Romania and Peter Pellegrini of Slovakia attending it. In attendance were also officials of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Suma Chakrabarti as well as senior office-holders from other CEI member-states.

On Tuesday, European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov are expected to join them.

At the dinner, top Croatian officials – President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, aside from Prime Minister Plenković – welcomed the guests.

Croatia is presiding over the CEI from 1 January to 31 December 2018. The next chairmanship will be taken over by Italy.

"One of the main goals of Croatia’s presidency is strengthening the Initiative’s basic mission – supporting the European prospect of member states that want to join the EU. Other Croatian presidency priorities include the transfer of know-how and experience in European integration, economic and cultural cooperation, the challenges of migration, intensifying cooperation between the CEI and other regional and international organizations, and maintaining parliamentary cooperation," the Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Ministry stated on its web site.

The CEI is one of the oldest regional cooperation forums in Central and Eastern Europe. It has 18 member states: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and Ukraine. The Initiative’s Secretariat is headquartered in Trieste.

Croatia joined the initiative in 1992.

Activists of a few Croatian nongovernmental organisations, which earlier in the day called on Plenković to use his meeting with Orban to condemn human rights violations by Hungary, protested in front of the hotel where the dinner was taking place. They carried banners with messages "Deport Orban and Not Refugees", "It stinks of Fascism".

For more on Croatia's relations with Hungary, click here.