Foreign ministers from 17 central European countries are meeting in the north eastern Italian port city of Trieste to discuss the fight against terrorism and stability in the Balkans. Security is tight in the city center where delegates are taking part in the summit of what is being called the "Central European Initiative."

Amid tight security, over 1,000 delegates are in Trieste to take part in the two day summit of the Central European Initiative.

Italy, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Central European Initiative, is hosting this year's meeting and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is in the port city to take part in high-level bilateral meetings.

The talks are expected to focus on the fight against terrorism and ways to increase stability in the Balkans.

Opening the summit, Italy's Foreign Undersecretary Roberto Antonione said the Central European Initiative could play a role in the fight against terrorism because it includes countries such as the Balkan states where political instability "can create an environment which could allow organized crime to grow and proliferate."

During the summit, the 17 member states will approve an action plan for the years 2002 and 2003. The plan will outline the initiatives to be pursued to reach what the summit organizers call three crucial objectives: strengthening cooperation among members; achieving greater participation in the process of integration with the European Union; and enhancing economic development in member countries.

The Central European Initiative was established in Budapest in November 1989 by the foreign ministers of Italy, Austria, Yugoslavia and Hungary. The aim was to boost political and economic cooperation between its member countries.

Today, the Central European Initiative consists of 17 member countries, mainly former east bloc nations and two European Union states, Italy and Austria.

It has become an important forum for dialogue and cooperation because it represents 240 million people and accounts for more than $800 billion in trade.