On 4-6 March, CEI Secretary General Roberto Antonione and a delegation of the CEI-Executive Secretariat - including Deputy Secretary General Nina Kodelja and some senior officers - visited Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia and had high-level meetings with government representatives.

In Podgorica, the delegation met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Srdjan Darmanović, and the Minister of Science, Sanja Damjanović. In Sarajevo, high-level meetings were held with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Igor Crnadak, and the Assistant Minister, Almir Šahović. In Zagreb they met with the State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Zdravka Bušić, and the Assistant Minister, Miroslav Papa.

The mission’s main goal was to discuss further possibilities to enhance strategic cooperation among CEI Member States and the common future vision of the CEI. To this end, regional cooperation was highlighted as an essential tool to facilitate political dialogue, good-neighborly relations and help non-EU Member States achieve necessary standards in the process of European integration. All interlocutors stressed that “There is never too much regional cooperation”.

The Montenegrin example as a leader in the European integration process was praised. The results and excellent cooperation during the Bosnian 2016 and the Croatian 2018 CEI Presidencies were also welcomed. Furthermore, the discussions touched upon a number of sensitive issues faced in particular by the countries of the Western Balkans, such as youth unemployment and brain drain, the need for more innovation and for the creation of a favourable environment for developing entrepreneurial skills, especially for young people. To this end, the CEI’s position vis-à-vis science diplomacy, including the CEI’s enduring support to international scientific cooperation was welcomed. The CEI was considered as an excellent multilateral platform to improve research & innovation systems; to promote international scientific cooperation and initiatives fostering science diplomacy, facilitating contacts between the scientific and business communities and institutions in the CEI Member States.

The CEI-ES team also met with the heads of delegations and other representatives of the CEI Parliamentary Dimension, including the President of the Parliament of Montenegro, Ivan Brajović; the CEI Business Dimension, in particular with the Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce of Montenegro, Ivan Saveljić; the Vice-President of the Foreign Trade Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ahmet Egrlić and the Deputy Director of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Ivan Barbarić.

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