ENERGY security and the stability of Visegrad Group’s neighbouring regions, especially the western Balkans and Ukraine, are becoming the priorities for cooperation, said Emanuela Suprowicz, the Deputy National Coordinator of Visegrad Cooperation for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, the country with the closest cultural and historical links with Ukraine among the V4. The Slovak Spectator spoke with Suprowicz about the Polish point of view on the present and future challenges of the Visegrad Group.
The Slovak Spectator: After joining the EU, cooperation among the Visegrad countries shifted mainly into the spheres of culture and education. Which areas of further cooperation by these four central European countries have not yet been pursued? In which fields can the potential of the region as a whole be best used? Which spheres does Poland define as priorities?
Emanuela Suprowicz: The V4 has a unique potential deriving from its ad hoc consultation mechanism that may be used for any purpose and which provides the much needed flexibility for effective cooperation in any field as required by circumstances. Cooperation within the Visegrad Group is not limited to the area of culture and education, although these are predominant areas in terms of projects carried out through funding from the International Visegrad Fund. Our countries cooperate on both the political and experts’ level in all possible domains of public administration whether it concerns infrastructure, preservation of endangered species, military issues or sports and tourism.
Currently, energy security in the region is increasingly assuming a top priority on the V4 agenda, just like the issue of stability of neighbouring regions, specifically of the countries participating in the Eastern Partnership and those of the western Balkans region.
TSS: One of the current priorities of V4 countries is passing on their experiences with integration into NATO and the EU to countries which are seeking to join the Euro-Atlantic structures in the future. What can V4 offer these countries?
ES: The V4 is an active player in the region and sees itself as a natural partner for neighbouring regions undergoing serious internal transformation processes which differ from one country to another. The V4 countries wish to share their experiences both with western Balkan states – mainly Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as with countries of the Eastern Partnership.
We believe that the political dialogue should be supported by strong and tangible support envisioned as the implementation of projects addressed to civil societies of those countries.
The International Visegrad Fund is the sole institution of the V4 and is responsible for carrying out special V4 projects in neighbouring regions in the fields of modern education (scholarships and training for teachers), promotion of V4 culture (publishing of V4 literature) and support to local administrations according to their specific needs.
In parallel to those actions, the V4 will maintain its support for political integration and negotiations of relevant Association Agreements between the EU on one side and Ukraine, and Moldova as well, on the other.
Regarding questions related to Euro-Atlantic integration, V4 states are sharing their experiences of accession to NATO with Ukraine, we coordinate the input of V4 states to the allied debate on granting of the MAP (Membership Action Plan), and we provide professional support for the development of strategic defence policies.
TSS: Migration – currently issue No. 1 in western European countries – has not yet been defined as such a problem in V4 countries and has not been a part of public debate. However, experts say that soon migration will essentially affect all central European countries. Is this a potential issue for further Visegrad integration? Should the V4 countries seek common solutions for the whole region in this sphere?
ES: The V4 is a grouping located in the vicinity of two very important regions – the western Balkans in to the south and eastern Europe with its biggest player, Ukraine. The visa liberalization process has political implications but also very practical ones in regards to the freedom of movement of citizens. People to people contacts are part of the integration process and should be allowed to develop and flourish around the continent. Yet the perspective of big migratory flows is a very tangible one and the V4 countries will have to make necessary adjustments to meet those challenges as well.
In this respect the V4 fully supports the program “Building Migration Partnerships” launched by the Czech Presidency in spring 2009. All four countries agree that a deepened cooperation is needed not only among the member states but also with external partners so as to be in a position to act conjointly in response to the potential threats of illegal migrations and to foster common actions also in the field of economic and social development.
Disclaimer: The piece is part of the Visegrad Countries Special, prepared by The Slovak Spectator with the support of the International Visegrad Fund. For more information on cooperation between the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia please see the following document.