In 2017 the Republic of Belarus took over the Presidency of the Central European Initiative.
Belarus chose «Promoting connectivity in a Wider Europe» as the main theme of its' Presidency that is in line with the distinctive features of the CEI and interests of all member countries.
The Central European Initiative was founded in 1989 to develop stable relationships between the countries of Central, Western, and Eastern Europe in politics, economy and culture, and to prevent new dividing lines in Europe. In the late 1990s, facilitation of the European integration and closer relations between the EU and non-EU European countries was defined as the CEI major objective.
The CEI consists of 18 member states: Austria, Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Croatia, Montenegro, and Czech Republic.
The Republic of Belarus became the member of the CEI in June 1996. Belarus considers the CEI as an effective tool for expansion and strengthening the regional cooperation through implementation of joint projects in energy efficiency, sustainable development, ecology, science and technology, and other important spheres.
Since 2009, a new factor has been featuring in the CEI activity: three participating countries – Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine – joined the EU Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative. The key spheres of the EaP activities largely echo the CEI priorities, first of all facilitation of cooperation between the EU and its neighbours. Belarus stands for strengthening the interaction between the CEI and the Eastern Partnership, and implementation of joint mutually complementary projects in practical spheres.
Belarus takes an active part in the CEI annual events, such as meetings of the heads of government and ministers of foreign affairs, national coordinators, and political directors of the participating countries. Belarusian MPs regularly participate in the sessions of the CEI Parliamentary Committee and Parliamentary Assembly.
Belarusian state governance bodies and organizations participate in the CEI project activities in energy, transport and logistics, the environment protection, education, science and technology, and innovation.
In 2004, the Belarusian State University joined the CEI University Network founded on the basis of the University of Trieste.
In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus signed an agreement with the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (Trieste, Italy). The agreement laid the ground for creation of a center for cooperation with the CEI on the premises of the nonlinear optics laboratory of the Institute of Physics of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences under the CEI Science and Technology Network.
In 2014-2015 CEI financed 6 projects in Belarus with a total budget of over 120 thousand Euro, covering such areas of co-operation as transport, tourism, culture, education and research. Belarus also participates in the CEI regional project for support of SMEs in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.
CEI membership facilitates distribution of information about the Belarusian state and society in Europe, and helps Belarus receive financial and expert assistance under the targeted cooperation projects, thus contributing to gradual harmonization of the national norms and technical standards with the EU standards.