All of the V4 countries aspired to become members of the EU, perceiving their integration in the EU as another step forward in the process of overcoming artificial lines of division in Europe through mutual support. They achieved this aim on 1 May, 2004 when they all became EU members.
V4 cooperation can currently be described as the most clearly profiled initiative in Central Europe. The backbone of this cooperation consists of contacts at all levels from political summits at the highest level to expert and diplomatic meetings, the work of non-governmental associations in the region, think-tanks and research bodies, cultural institutions and numerous networks of individuals.
Cooperation between the respective ministries constitutes an important part of the activities within the V4 framework, whether at the level of the ministers or through joint expert teams. A number of joint projects are currently being implemented, particularly in the fields of culture, environment, internal security, defence, science and education. At the same time, cooperation in the fields of justice, transportation, tourism, energy and information technologies is also intensifying.
The V4 was formed on 15 February, 1991 at a meeting attended by the President of the former Czechoslovak Republic, Václav Havel, the President of the Republic of Poland Lech Wałęsa, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary József Antall. This high-level meeting in Visegrad, Hungary, created an imaginary historical link to a similar meeting which took place at the same location in 1335 and was attended by John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia, Charles I of Anjou (Charles Robert), King of Hungary, and Casimir III, King of Poland. The central motive behind both meetings was the desire to intensify cooperation and friendship among the three Central European states.
Official website: http://www.visegradgroup.eu/
V4 operations are based solely on the principle of periodical meetings of the member states’ representatives at all levels (prime ministers, heads of states, ministers, experts, etc.). An official prime ministerial summit takes place on an annual basis. Between these official summits, which are usually held each June, one of the V4 countries holds presidency over the group. The Presidency of the V4 countries rotates each year.
Presidencies of the V4 for 2016 – 2021:
2016/2017 – Poland (July 2016 – June 2017)
2017/2018 – Hungary (July 2017 – June 2018)
2018/2019 – Slovakia (July 2018 – June 2019)
2019/2020 – Czech Republic (July 2019– June 2020)
2020/2021 – Poland (July 2020 – June 2021)
CURRENT V4 PRESIDENCY
2020/2021 Polish Presidency
Poland takes over the annual Presidency of the Visegrad Group (V4) on July 1st, 2020. The Presidency coincides with an unprecedented crisis in the world caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has put the functioning of societies to a severe test. The response - medical, social and economic - of Europe and the world to this pandemic will have a major impact on the development of individual countries, regions, the EU and the whole world. The pandemic and the process of overcoming its consequences will also have a significant impact on the course of the Polish presidency in the V4, in many areas and aspects. V4 countries will have to actively cooperate in tackling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and work together to bring socio-economic life in the region and the EU back on track. Building the image of the Central European region and V4 as a flexible and constructive partner remains an ongoing task. Dialogue is essential in these difficult times. Gestures of solidarity and goodwill also count.
The Polish V4 Presidency coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Visegrad cooperation (February 1991). The high-level meeting in Hungarian city of Visegrad three decades ago was of great importance for Central Europe. Speaking about the important anniversaries for V4, it should be pointed out that still in the first half of the Polish presidency we will have the opportunity to continue the celebration of the 20th anniversary (June 2000) of the International Visegrad Fund (IVF).
These two important anniversaries and related events define the year of the Polish presidency of V4. Building on the work and achievements of the Czech V4 presidency, we will focus on the problems of the region and EU issues concerning our region. The V4 Presidency also offers an opportunity to implement projects (both symbolic and practical) to highlight the importance of V4 cooperation for its members and achieve practical progress.
The motto of V4 cooperation during the Presidency will be "Back on track".
1. Strong V4 in a strong Europe
Objective related to the coordination of V4 countries' activities within the EU:
● Consultation and coordination of V4 at EU political level; strengthening of V4 countries influence on the EU decision-making process;
● Jointly tackling serious problems such as droughts and dwindling water resources (“V4 water”);
● Deepening V4 cooperation in sectoral policies;
● Cooperation in the V4+ format.
2. Return to normality
Objective related to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences:
● V4 cooperation to return to normality after the pandemic (“V4 recovery”) as soon as possible;
● Cooperation in health and science.
3. People-to-people contacts
Objective related to integration and cohesion objectives within V4:
● Cooperation in the area of broadly defined connections and synergies (“V4 connectivity”);
● Developing contacts between societies in V4 countries (V4 people), e.g. in the field of culture, youth, education, justice, sport;
● Joint/mutual promotion within V4;
● Restoring and strengthening cooperation and cross-border contacts affected by the pandemic.
4. Digital V4 - e-V4
Objective related to the development of V4 cooperation in the digital sector:
● V4 cooperation in the area of the digital agenda, including the digital transition, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, e-commerce, cybersecurity;
Building sustainable V4 relations allowing to advocate and safeguard the common interests of the region within the EU digital transition;
● Strengthening and enhancing V4 cooperation in the area of innovation and application of new technologies;
● Enhancing V4 cooperation in the area of Government Technology (GovTech), digitization and innovation support through cross-border initiatives and promoting collaboration between regional private and public actors.
During the Polish Presidency, the European Union (EU) will remain the key platform for V4 cooperation. It is through an effective influence on the European agenda that our four countries can partly shape the global order and have a real impact on our immediate environment.
The coming year will be for the EU and its Member States a time to recover from the crisis related to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, including its socio-economic consequences.
The task of the Polish Presidency will be to present common position toward the details of architecture of the European Recovery Instrument (ERI)/Next Generation EU), in the final stage of the negotiation of the package MFF-ERI. In the context of the crises related to the pandemic, the coordination of V4 is also crucial in relation to current post-COVID-19 initiatives. Cooperation in the area of health will be of particular importance. Coordination of V4 in the area of transport is also desirable and needed. Special attention is also necessary for strengthening V4 vital economic interests while shaping foundations of economic sovereignty for the EU industry (level playing field for/between V4 companies).
Coordination of V4 in the EU should also cover a number of other EU initiatives on, inter alia, the internal market, including its digital dimension (in particular the AI and the Digital Services Act), industrial policy, social policy and agriculture.
The pandemic has shown how crucial addressing the issues of digital and innovation policy has become. With the emergence of new technologies in fields such as AI, IoT, quantum computing, cybersecurity and others, it becomes crucial to address both the opportunities and challenges of such tools. The Polish presidency will strive towards developing clear, agreeable and practical policy frameworks on both, mulitilateral and EU-wide levels in these and other areas of GovTech. Special emphasis will be placed on ensuring that digital gains achieved and valuable initiatives conducted in this field during the pandemic persist regardless of epidemiological recovery and supporting the digitization of private and public institutions throughout the region.
During the Polish Presidency of the Visegrad Group, key and final decisions concerning the size and structure of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-2027 will be made, including those concerning the Cohesion Policy and its implementation system. An important element of the Presidency will therefore be the coordination of V4 activities in the sphere of MFF negotiations and programming of the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy
The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly influence the shape of the Cohesion Policy legislative package and programming documents. On the one hand, this factor determines the priorities and the way the EU institutions work (including the programme and the V4+ cooperation calendar), and on the other hand, it will force the adaptation of the Cohesion Policy legislative package for 2021-2027 and even the whole MFF proposals to the new socio-economic reality. The V4+ cooperation will probably be advisable in connection with talks concerning the use of funds still available under the Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020 for combating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic (Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative).
Climate policy will remain a key challenge for the EU and its Member States. This policy has a horizontal impact on a number of other European policies. The Communication presented by the European Commission (EC) "The European Green Deal”, which is a new EU growth strategy, will require coordinated economic and environmental actions, especially in the current situation of the pandemic. Currently, in the face of the expected economic crisis triggered by the pandemic, the regions most affected by the costs of transition to a climate-neutral economy will face an additional burden. It is necessary to secure ambitious financial resources for the realization of the climate policy objectives during the negotiation of the future MFF, including adequate financing for the sectoral policies allowing the implementation of the EU climate strategies in different sectors.
Migration policy will remain important on the EU agenda and it will be necessary to keep V4 active and unified in this area especially that work on the new Pact on Migration and Asylum will start soon in the EU Council, as well as work on the asylum reform will continue. It is crucial to take full advantage of V4 countries cooperation in this respect in order to effectively prevent the introduction of solutions that are contrary to V4 states common position, in particular those regarding mandatory redistribution of migrants.
The COVID-19 epidemic confirmed both the labour market mismatch and the demand for key occupations and skills and the lack of social security for employees of so-called atypical forms of employment. During the Polish Presidency, the V4 may raise issues of automation and robotisation of employment and remote working.
With regard to the update of the EU action plan in the area of digital education, it will be interesting to exchange within the V4 the experiences related to the need to switch to remote education and its implications for educational systems (also in connection with aspects of counteracting digital exclusion).
The ongoing discussion on the future of the EU integration is also fundamental. We believe that the Conference on the Future of Europe will provide an appropriate framework to discuss new ideas, based on which we can build a stronger, more resilient and more competitive EU. Within this framework there may be a need to develop a common V4 approach to selected challenges that are the subject of its work.
The challenges for the EU will continue to be generated by Brexit, mainly in the economic sphere (e.g. the need to negotiate a new trade agreement), but also in the political sphere. During the Polish Presidency, the current coordination of activities and positions of V4 in the area of negotiations with the UK and their consistent presentation on the EU forum will continue.
From the V4's point of view, it will be extremely important to work towards the closest possible transatlantic cooperation. The Polish presidency will also give due attention to regional cooperation in the Three Seas Initiative as a framework linking the V4, EU and transatlantic cooperation.
Security cooperation will be crucial for V4. This cooperation will concern the development of a coherent V4 position on key defence policy issues discussed in the NATO and EU.
Uncertainty as to the real progress of EU enlargement policy will remain a challenge, potentially jeopardising Europe's strategic interests, especially those of Central Europe. Therefore, coordinated political support from V4 to the EU enlargement process and efforts to support the pro-integration aspirations of the Western Balkan countries (WB) will continue. In this context, an important task for V4 is to exchange V4's experience with the WB countries on the EU accession process and the first years of EU membership and motivate them to carry out necessary reforms. Using its Presidency experience in the Berlin Process, Poland plans to maintain the existing V4/V4+ consultation schemes with the WB countries. In support of the regional ownership in the Western Balkans region, V4 will implement through the IVF the agreed technical assistance to the Western Balkans Fund.
The Eastern neighbourhood of the EU remains important to the V4. The dynamic situation in Ukraine and Belarus is crucial here.
It remains important to increase the interest of EU countries in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region. The aim of the Polish V4 Presidency is to further promote and expand V4 cooperation with activities and projects supporting the development of the EaP - as an invariably paramount long-term V4 priority especially in the area of resilience. The Polish Presidency will also try to take into account the economic aspects of V4+EaP cooperation. It is of paramount importance that the V4 helps bring the EaP Summit schedule “back on track” as soon as possible, in order for the next full-fledged Summit to take place during the CZ EU PRES in 2022.
For V4, it will be important to support the implementation of EU association agreements, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTA) agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, which are an integral part thereof.
V4 consultations on development cooperation will continue. The Presidency will seek to strengthen the V4 consultation mechanism in this area, with an emphasis on sustainable solutions and not just ad hoc ones. To this end, the Presidency will initiate consultations on sharing good practices, developing directions and areas for V4 joint action.
Cooperation of V4 consular services will be developed. It will enable the exchange of opinions and experiences on current challenges in consular work and discussions on positions on the current EU visa agenda.
Efforts will be continued to increase the internal coherence of V4 in all non-political spheres of common interest and activity of the Visegrad Group countries. In the economic sphere the field of interest will traditionally be broadly understood infrastructure connections (transport, energy, etc.). Cooperation in other sectors of the economy will also be continued.
The cooperation of V4 during the Polish Presidency is intended to strengthen the V4 as a community. Multi-level contacts between societies and the promotion and dissemination of the culture and history of Central European countries will be supported. An indispensable role in this task will continue to be played by the International Visegrad Fund (IVF) with its numerous instruments (grants, scholarships, etc.). Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2020, the Fund will actively participate in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Visegrad cooperation.
The cooperation of V4 think tanks gathered in the Think Visegrad platform (TV) will be further developed. In this context, among others, the implementation of the traditional mid-term conference is planned. The experience exchange programme organised by TV under the Civil Servants Mobility Programme (CSMP) will be continued. Analytical cooperation of V4 will be conducted within the V4 Energy Think Tank Platform.
To provide a symbolic structure to the comprehensive Visegrad cooperation in sectoral policies during the Polish Presidency, the proposed initiatives and activities are divided into three pillars:
1. Economy and connectivity;