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 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 CEI-Executive Secretariat in Trieste handles the everyday CEI activities, including the development and implementation of projects.

The Initiative currently counts 17 Member States of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe: 9 EU members (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia) and 8 non-EU members (Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine). In December 2011, the CEI was granted observer status in the General Assembly of the United Nations.