Central European Initiative countries discuss EU accession process
Eleven prime ministers and six government ministers are meeting in the Slovak spa town of Piestany for a two-day conference of the Central European Initiative. The platform puts together countries from Central and Eastern Europe, from Austria to Ukraine and from Albania to Poland and focuses on regional cooperation, with an emphasis on economy.
Radio Prague's Rob Cameron is following the talks in Piestany and first he described the atmosphere in the town with an international summit underway.
"The atmosphere is extremely subdued, actually. This is a spa town and obviously, it is busiest in the spring, in the summer and in the autumn. In the winter it's rather quiet. The fact that this major summit is being held here doesn't seem to have made the town any busier. There is a scattering of policemen around and you can see a few delegations wondering around, but apart from that it's very quiet. Also it's very cold. It's been snowing all night, so the whole spa island in Piestany is covered in a blanket of fresh snow."
Is there any special reason why the conference is taking place in Piestany, in Slovakia?
"Well, each year the Central European Initiative hands over the reins to one of its seventeen member countries. Recently, Poland had the opportunity to host the meeting, and this year it's Slovakia. I think it's partly what the CEI is all about. It gives the member countries a chance to showcase their countries in the lights of international media. It's a chance to attract journalists and, of course, it has a knock-on effect on tourism, and so on, so it's really about making the member countries more visible as well."
"Well, the Slovak government wants the Central European Initiative to concentrate on finding ways in which the members who have recently joined the European Union, which is the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, can help those CEI countries who haven't yet joined, whether they be countries which are going to join in the near future, such as Romania and Bulgaria, or those a lot further on down the line, say Belarus or Moldova. They will try to find ways in which they can help pass on experiences that they've had in the accession process to help them ease the path towards EU membership. It's really about exchanging know-how and exchanging experiences."