A dynamic Visegrad Group for Europe and the world
Mr. Béla László, Ambassador of Hungary, Ms. Anna Raduchowska - Brochwicz, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, Ms. Blanka Fajkusova
Ambassador of the Czech Republic and Mr. Alexander Ilascik, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic
The Visegrad Group (V4) is an informal grouping of four central European countries – the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Hungary and the Republic of Poland. It is a living and informal regional structure composed of four Member States of the EU and NATO that adhere to shared values and have a common history, culture and geographical situation.
The V4 is a dynamic regional grouping of EU Member States, representing a platform for strengthening the coordination and consultation mechanism with a view to reaching common positions and opinions on topical issues of foreign and European policy, regional development, and economic and cultural cooperation.
In the wake of post-1989 changes, three central European countries decided to forge closer cooperation with the aim of “returning” to Europe. The Group originated in a summit meeting of the heads of state or government of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland held in the Hungarian castle town of Visegrád on 15 February 1991. The Czech Republic and Slovakia became members after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993.
All four members of the Visegrad Group became part of the European Union on 1 May 2004.
The Visegrad Group contributed to the strengthening of regional stability and to the deepening of European integration. For more than 20 years, regional cooperation of the V4 has successfully developed in the intersectoral/interministerial field, e. g. in such areas as the economy, infrastructure, energy, cross-border cooperation, cultural exchanges and scholarships, coordination of foreign policy positions and pursuance of common interests within the EU and vis-à-vis third countries/regions. The coordination of V4 cooperation is carried out by the ministries of foreign affairs and by national Visegrad coordinators. The activities of the V4 are based on presidency programmes adopted by the Prime Ministers at Visegrad Group summits.
Remarks by Ambassador of Hungary, Mr. Bela Laszlo at the reception on account of the closing of the Hungarian presidency of the Visegrad Group. 11th of June, 2014
Excellencies, Professor David Mosoma, Vice Chairman of the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, representatives of the South African Government, colleagues from DIRCO, representatives of the Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak community,
Ladies and Gentleman,
It is my great honour and pleasure to welcome you most warmly on behalf of the Ambassadors of the Visegrad Group.
The Visegrad Group was formed on February 15, 1991 during a meeting between the Hungarian Prime Minister József Antall, the Czechoslovak President Václav Havel and the Polish head of state, Lech Walesa. This summit held in the picturesque Hungarian town of Visegrad, created a historical link with a similar event that took place there in 1335 when it was attended by John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia, Károly Róbert, King of Hungary, and Casimir III, King of Poland.
Both in 1335 and in 1991, the central motif was the desire to intensify cooperation and friendship among the Central European states.
Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have long shared common ground in history, culture, religion, and economics. Over the course of the centuries this shared past has been marked by a desire for unity as well as frequent frictions, peaceful times and military conflicts.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the change of regime in the Central and Eastern European countries provided a historical opportunity for a new kind of cooperation.
In an effort to seize this formidable opportunity, the Visegrad Group and the International Visegrad Fund were created to facilitate the political, economic and civil cooperation between the four countries based on common interests.
The V4 partnership played an instrumental role in the Euro-Atlantic integration of our countries and together we joined the NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004. We can proudly say that in the course of the past two decades, the Visegrad Group has become a trademark of success, and the V4 cooperation is one of the key factors in boosting economic growth in Europe.
The present Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group came at a time when we could reflect upon the remarkable progress Central European countries have made since they managed to reclaim their freedom 25 years ago.
It was also during the Hungarian Presidency, that we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our countries’ accession to the European Union, which was the ultimate political step to reunite Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me briefly summarize what were the priorities of the Hungarian presidency:
We wanted to focus on energy, transport, foreign and security policy, economic stabilization and the parliamentary dimension of the V4 cooperation.
The Ukrainian crisis sadly proves that the strength and security of Central Europe is greatly depending on the capability to reduce energy dependence.
In this spirit the Hungarian Presidency played an active role in the construction of the missing North-South energy interconnectors. We consider the recent opening of the Hungarian-Slovak interconnector as one of the major achievements during our Presidency.
Central Europe is also in need of continuous infrastructure development and modernization.
This is the reason why we insisted that the North and South road and rail investments have to be managed as European programs.
What is happening in the Ukraine clearly proves how important the V4 cooperation is on security policy. The Hungarian Presidency was determined to enhance the Visegrad Cooperation in the field of Security and Defence Policy. We took all the necessary preparatory steps towards having the V4 Battle Group operational by the first half of 2016.
We also organized several high level meetings to discuss the situation in the Ukraine and to contribute to the peaceful, political solution of the crisis.
We believe that V4 cooperation is also a very effective instrument to overcome recession. During our Presidency we further strengthened our bilateral economic ties, and we successfully promoted trade, investment and tourism jointly at third markets.
The Hungarian Presidency has placed special emphasis on small and medium enterprises as these companies play a crucial role in our economies.
We strongly believe that a deeper cooperation between the SMEs of the four countries would contribute to enhancing their competitiveness.
The Euro crisis has given clear evidence that we have to strengthen our representation in the rapidly emerging regions of the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa.
It was upon a Czech initiative that the V4 countries created the first - and so far only - Visegrad House in Cape Town. The activities at the jointly operated Visegrad House have been expanding continuously since its establishment, covering political actions, trade and tourism promotion, culture events and consular duties.
We also proposed to enhance the parliamentary dimension of the V4 cooperation, following the example of the Nordic Countries. The Hungarian Presidency initiated the establishment of a V4 parliamentary group, with an equal number of representatives. This institution would also operate with rotating presidency, without political groups.
This function serves as a pleasant manifestation of the practical cooperation of the V4 Embassies in Pretoria.
We enjoy the hospitality of the Polish Embassy, we offer traditional Hungarian food (thanks to the Chéf of the Community Center of the South African Hungarian Alliance) and you can drink real Pilsner beer from the Czech Republic and you can taste excellent digestives from Slovakia.
And now let me give the floor to H.E Alexander Ilascik, Ambassador of Slovakia to say a few words on behalf of the next V4 Presidency.
Remarks by H.E Alexander Ilascik Ambassador of Slovakia to South Africa
Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group - V4 (2014 – 2015).
If counted as a single nation state, the Visegrad Group is the fifth largest economy in Europe and the 12th in the world.
After taking over the presidency of V4 group from July 1, Slovakia will continue and build on the achievements of the previous presidencies, observing the draft programme of Slovakia’s V4 presidency that was approved by the government on June 4.
Pursuing the motto “a dynamic Visegrad Group for Europe and the world”, Slovakia wants to boost the region’s growth and competitiveness in the year of its presidency.
With this aim it will mainly focus on consolidating public finances, stimulating economic growth and preventing tax fraud within the V4 countries. Slovakia also wants to focus on energy security, traffic infrastructure, security cooperation and a common foreign and security policy for the group.
After May-election to the European Parliament and the creation of the new European Commission another aim will be the setting up of communication channels with the new authorities of the EU. And of course another task is to continue with the successful format of cooperation “V4 plus” which means that although V4 doesn´t want to enlarge the group, it is fully open to consultations or cooperation with any country or regional group all over the world, which is already successfully taking place with many single countries or regional groups.