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The Central European Initiative (CEI) was founded in Budapest on 11 November 1989. It is a regional intergovernmental forum committed to supporting European integration and sustainable development through cooperation between and among its Member States and with the European Union, international and regional organisations as well as with other public or private institutions and non-governmental organisations. While acting as a platform for political dialogue, the CEI has developed a strong operational, result-oriented approach to regional cooperation.

It combines multilateral diplomacy and fund, programme and project management as both donor and recipient. The everyday CEI activities are handled by the CEI-Executive Secretariat in Trieste, including the development and implementation of projects.  

The CEI's added value lies in the specific combination of operational structure  and funds and instruments.

The Organisation’s priorities within the established areas of cooperation are clearly defined in the triennial Plan of Action.