V4 countries want to coordinate their approach to the EU and Roma integration
Today at a meeting of the Visegrád 4 group in Budapest, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia agreed to intensify their cooperation, primarily as it relates to the European Union. Slovak PM Iveta Radičová said V4 PMs will meet regularly prior to sessions of the Council of the EU. As of this month, Slovakia is chairing the V4 for the next year. In addition to a common approach toward the EU, the Slovak presidency has set its priorities as addressing the economic crisis, energy security, and unemployment. The V4 group has been in existence for 20 years.
"What connects us is the search for answers and solutions to the deepest economic crisis of recent times. In this search, in the creation of mechanisms to overcome high levels of unemployment and serious everyday problems, we want not just to assist one another, but to cooperate very actively,” Radičová stressed at a post-meeting press conference.
In a joint declaration, the Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak PMs expressed appreciation for the successes of the Hungarian V4 presidency, such as its efforts to bring countries in the Western Balkans into NATO, its cooperation with Eastern European partners, and also its work on integrating the Roma minority. The social inclusion of the Roma population is also mentioned in the declaration as a priority of the current Slovak V4 presidency.
Radičová said the security of the citizens of all four countries depends on diversifying their energy sources. "The proposal of specific practical solutions is the aim of our next meetings,” the Slovak PM said.
Czech PM Petr Nečas emphasized that all of the V4 countries had recently experienced the disadvantage of their dependence on a single dominant supplier of strategic raw materials. "From this point of view, the mutual interconnection of our energy networks, mutual support on joint energy projects – and here I would stress the southern corridor, the Nabucco pipeline, the north-south route for liquid natural gas terminals – these are steps that will make it possible to be less dependent on a single dominant supplier,” the Czech PM said. Nabucco is a project supported in the EU to transport natural gas from Central Asia without Russian participation.
The approach taken by these Central European countries toward the EU as a whole is the third priority of the Slovak V4 presidency. The V4 would like to coordinate that approach, for example on the preparation of the EU’s Strategy 2020 document. "The European Union today is responding to serious challenges to its values, challenges for responsible policy and consolidation of public financing, challenges not to put future generations in debt, to create employment, new jobs, challenges to create new forms of solidarity,” Radičová said. In her view, the V4 countries want to “create room for a return to the basic premises of the EU, built on principles and values.”
Nečas said the idea of V4 PMs meeting regularly before important EU summits was “interesting”. In his view it would be useful for experts to pre-negotiate stances on issues which the V4 PMs would then approve. "It could increase the influence of these four countries in the EU," Nečas said. If the meetings prove themselves, they could become a permanent mechanism. "At the end of the day, France and Germany also meet, so why should it bother anyone if the V4 adopts a similar mechanism?” noted the Czech PM.
Polish PM Donald Tusk pointed out that thanks to the V4 group the Central European countries are safer in the European Union. "We managed to win on some important matters,” he said. Tusk says the V4 agreed to jointly support Poland’s EU presidency. Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán said the year 2011, when Hungary and the Poland will chair the EU, will be “the year of Central Europe”. Tusk said the V4 are not doing any worse than Western European states in managing the economic crisis and the region, in his view, will not lose any credibility on that score.
Nečas also reminded the press that the combined strength of the V4 is considerable, as their GDPs and common market are strong. He emphasized that the V4 are closely interconnected in Central Europe and that the budgetary or economic problems of any one of the countries could have an unfavorable impact on the others. "That is why I consider it extremely important that all four countries make the fiscal stabilization of their public expenditures a priority,” the Czech PM said.
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