From the very outset, I would like to sincerely thank the Bosnian Presidency and the CEI Secretariat for the excellent preparation of our today’s meeting and for the warm hospitality that we all enjoy here in Banja Luka.
We meet at a particular challenging time for our region and our countries.
Over the last 25 years Europe has made a quantum leap from a divided, post-Cold-War setting towards a progressive political and economic integration. It brought clear benefits to all of us in terms of fostering trade and mobility, promoting cross-border cooperation and good-neighbourly relations.
But one cannot take it for granted or irreversible. Our common achievements are still fragile. They come under ever increasing pressures.
The ongoing migration crisis, terrorist and other security threats, regional tensions and economic difficulties spread across the borders and endanger our stability. They defy the core principles of the European integration.
Effectively tackling these challenges and preventing new dividing lines in Europe require concerted actions, dialogue and engagement of all European countries.
In this context the Central European Initiative is becoming increasingly relevant as an important platform for such a dialogue and interaction.
Our Organisation has accumulated a vast experience in promoting pragmatic cooperation in a number of areas, including transport, energy efficiency, agriculture, scientific research. It has also significantly contributed to cross-cultural dialogue and people-to-people contacts. We need to build further on this.
But at this juncture, in our view, the CEI main focus should be supporting sustainable economic development and fostering interconnections among our countries as key prerequisites for regional security, stability and cohesion.
We do hope that it would be duly reflected in a new CEI Plan of Action for 2017-2020, which will provide guidance for the Organisation’s activities in the period ahead.
The CEI should also continue to serve as a bridge between various integration platforms and a “meeting point” of distinctive sub-regions across Europe. It unites today the countries of the European Union, Western Balkans and Eastern Europe around the idea of united, peaceful and strong Europe.
Our Organisation has been a long-time partner of the European Union in contributing to implementation of macro-regional strategies and in promoting European integration at large. We do believe the CEI could also play an active part in helping – through concrete project activities – to achieve primary objectives of the revised European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership, such as stabilization through economic development, creation of partnerships for growth, ensuring wider connectivity and mobility. This will certainly reinforce the Eastern dimension of our Organisation.
In order to maximise its positive output the CEI has to develop further synergies with other key stakeholders in our region. Belarus supports continued efforts in expanding the CEI’s international outreach through closer cooperation with other international, regional and sub-regional organizations. We welcome new cooperation arrangements established with the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Energy Community, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, and the International Anti-Corruption Academy.
We also favour and fully back the practice of organising joint high-level events with major economic players. An excellent example of this kind was the recent CEI-EBRD International Conference on Supporting Local Enterprises and SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) along the China’s Belt and Road Initiative in South Eastern Europe. Such endeavours are of crucial importance for promoting trade, attracting investments and reviving economic growth in the countries across the CEI’s constituency.
Likewise, Belarus suggests engaging more with evolving stakeholders in the Eastern Europe, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Eurasian Economic Union. We are convinced that it meets not only our common economic interests, but also it would allow the CEI to contribute to the facilitation of dialogue and interaction between different integration platforms across the continent.
Belarus does strongly believe in the continued value and relevance of the Central European Initiative for our countries and our citizens.
Therefore, we are ready and eager to provide our contribution to the common efforts by taking over in 2017 – for the first time – the CEI Presidency.
In exercising this function, if decided so, Belarus will ensure proper continuity and consistency in the work of the Organization and will pay due attention to the interests of all Member States. We intend to make a special emphasis on fostering connectivity in the region, supporting sustainable economic development, further promoting the CEI’s outreach.
We are looking forward to the adoption of the relevant decision on our Presidency here in Banja Luka and would count on your support and cooperation during the next year.
I thank you.