Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Visegrad Four and YATA

Although the main topics for this week were/are the aftermath of the EU elections and the elections in Iran (both wonderfully covered by Brendan), I would like to draw your attention to an upcoming event.

As you might already know, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary are part of a Central European Alliance, the Visegrad Four. The V4 was established for the purposes of cooperation and furthering their European integration. The Group’s name in the languages of the four countries is Visegrádská čtyřka or Visegrádská skupina (Czech); Visegrádi Együttműködés or Visegrádi négyek (Hungarian); Grupa Wyszehradzka (Polish); and Vyšehradská skupina or Vyšehradská štvorka (Slovak). It is also sometimes referred to as the Visegrád Triangle, since it was the alliance of three states at the beginning - the term is not valid now, but appears sometimes even after all the years since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993. The Czech Republic and Slovakia became members after the breakup of Czechoslovakia. The Visegrad 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 February 15, 1991. All four members of the Visegrád Group became part of the European Union on May 1, 2004.

Since 1999, the V4 countries are holding the Group’s presidency for a one year term, from June to June.

The only institution of the Visegrad Four co-operation is the International Visegrad Fund, established in 1999, with the seat in Bratislava. According to a decision of the prime ministers, the Fund has an annual budget of EUR 5 million since 2007 onwards. In 11 annual deadlines the Fund awards grants, scholarships (Master's or postgraduate levels) and artist residencies. Students from the following countries are eligible for the scholarships: the Visegrad Group countries, Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia and Ukraine.

In 2002, Hungary initiated the establishment of an Expert Working Group on Energy. This expert group meets once or twice a year in V4 capitals on a rotation basis, and it is always the head of the host country’s delegation that chairs the meeting.

On April 27, 2002, the V4 WG on Energy met in Prague with the aim of discussing recommendations for V4 energy ministers concerning topics negotiated at ministerial level meetings. The WG elaborated recommendations concerning four groups of problems:

  • Recommendations of general nature in the sphere of energy policy, including energy research and development.
  • Recommendation to consider development of emergency natural gas storage.
  • Recommendation to consider construction of new gas and oil pipelines and of new naval LNG terminals.
  • Recommendations in the field of interconnecting power transmission grids.

And why am I writing about the V4?

The Quo Vadis Project

On one hand, the Euro-Atlantic Center (YATA Slovakia) has organized in cooperation with representatives of all V4 YATA national chapters - Jagello 2000 – Association for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Hungarian Youth Atlantic Council and Polish Youth Section – Euro Atlantic Association, in financial cooperation with NATO Public Diplomacy Division an essay writing competition “Quo Vadis V4? Contribution of V4 countries to EU and NATO security policy”, designed for university students from Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

The aim of the competition “Quo Vadis V4? Contribution of V4 Countries to EU and NATO Security Policy” was to engage university students from V4 countries – Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. Its goal was to broaden the intellectual know-how of the competitors in the field of international relations and security policy, to promote their active engagement in the given field and to support their skills to analyze and propose solutions of international security issues. Competition would further support the cooperation among young people of the V4 countries, which will lead to more intense contacts and development of the awareness among these countries of their stance on common EU and NATO security policies.

The main added value of the project consisted of the interactive cooperation among participants from all 4 countries. Topic was to be elaborated in two-member teams consisting of V4 countries participants, in order to enable to develop direct international communication among V4 students, what will become an irreplaceable opportunity of mutual based cooperation in finding out a common stance of V4 peoples on common EU and NATO policy.

The competition started in pre-registration of contestants from 15th to 26th of April. The main focus was put on permanent communication and actualization of information between organizers and participants.

Competitors were given the opportunity to write an essay or a case study on the topic of „Contribution of V4 Countries to EU and NATO Security Policy”. The essays/ case studies should have been 10-15 pages long. The main topic for the essays consisted of the following sub-topics:

1. The 60th anniversary of establishment of NATO

2. Presenting the view of political and military future of NATO and EU and cooperation of all
V4 countries in these international structures

3. The future of deeper cooperation between NATO and EU.

4. The influence of relationships among V4 countries on common presence in these structures.

Students had to focus their ideas on analyzing the problematic, thinking of the past, present and future cooperation of V4 countries in the framework of the European Union and NATO by presenting their own opinion and vision on the given topic. The deadline for the essays was May 31. The evaluation of the papers is under process. The winners will get a chance to travel to Brussels and visit the NATO HQ.

Hungarian V4 Presidency

On the other hand, the Republic of Hungary will take over the year-long V4 Presidency from Poland as of July 1st, 2009. The program of the Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group has been made public after the Official Summit of the Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group Countries. Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai informed the press that Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Poland and the Slovak Republic at their meeting have endorsed energy policy, economic/financial crisis management and protection against climate change as priorities of the next presidency year. The Hungarian V4 Presidency will also focus on the European integration process of the Western Balkans. Countries addressed by the EU Eastern Partnership will also be regarded as a priority in V4 external activities with a view to accelerating their political association and further integration within the European Union.

PM Bajnai emphasized that the Visegrad Group countries are very much exposed to energy dependency; to ease the consequences they might need a day-to day co-ordination of their energy policy. Until a common European Union energy strategy will be worked out, the V4 countries need concerted efforts.

For the official program of the Hungarian Presidency, please click here:

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