THE PRIME Ministers of the four countries of the Visegrad Group (V4) met in Prague on June 22 to discuss coordination of their positions before a European Council meeting in Brussels scheduled for June 28-29. Prime ministers Robert Fico from Slovakia, Petr Nečas of the Czech Republic, Viktor Orbán from Hungary and Donald Tusk from Poland focused primarily on issues of EU integration and developing a workable solution for the eurozone sovereign debt crisis. The four prime ministers noted in a joint statement that structural reforms and fiscal consolidation are needed within Europe but that there should also be measures to stimulate employment. The four leaders also stated their opposition to any cut in EU funds dedicated to eliminating regional differences within the union and stressed the importance of constructing north-south routes for transmission of natural gas and oil.
At the meeting Poland took the rotating presidency of the V4 from the Czech Republic and will hold it until June 30, 2013. The leaders also discussed energy issues, a programme called “V4 for Integration and Cohesion” and the development of joint priorities in preparation for the European Council meeting, the TASR newswire reported. The V4 leaders sent a letter to José Emanuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, Herman van Rompuy, president of the European Council, and Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament suggesting ideas that should be discussed by the European Union to invigorate economic growth.
The letter mentioned structural reforms at the national levels as well as more progress in creating a single European market in all economic areas, the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020 and support for economic growth measures such as project bonds and strengthening of the capacity of the European Investment Bank. The prime ministers wrote that possible future initiatives to stimulate economic growth must be done within the framework of all 27 countries of the EU, according to the letter published on the Czech government website. TASR wrote that Prime Minister Fico said that some members of the EU will not be able to secure economic growth and the V4 will not support a cut in the EU budget in cohesion programmes.
“Countries which have less-developed regions contributed to the economic growth of the whole European Union and it would be unfair if this [commitment] on which the EU has stood for many years is broken and we economise only on this policy,” stated Fico, as quoted by TASR, adding that “if [budget] cuts [are executed] they should be at the expense of all programmes that are financed by the EU”.
The leaders of the V4 countries expressed a common position on completing energy infrastructure that focuses on north-south gas and oil connections, stating that “evident dependence on only some [supply] markets is dangerous for EU countries”. They also expressed their support for production of electricity from nuclear plants as well as coal-fired power plants, noting that “the energy mix must remain in national control as it is guaranteed by the Lisbon Treaty”, TASR reported. Fico rejected any doubts about the safety of nuclear and coal facilities and said that power plants in the V4 are the safest in the entire EU according to a recent ranking without specifying the exact source, SITA wrote.
The joint statement of the prime ministers also evaluated the Czech presidency of the V4 and highlighted the efforts of the V4’s Eastern Partnership programme to seek rapprochement with countries of eastern Europe that remain outside the EU. The prime ministers noted the V4 programme is a part of the EU’s efforts in this area and that the EU “should increase the presence of the V4 in eastern Europe”. Other discussions regarded preparation of a special V4 fund for the western Balkans and a joint V4 combat group as part of NATO that could begin operating in the first half of 2016, SITA reported.
The Visegrad Group was formed in 1991 to reflect the common interests of three countries (Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland) and to assist each of the countries in their accession to the EU. After the separation of Czechoslovakia in 1993, Slovakia became the fourth member of the group and all four countries entered the European Union in 2004. The founding members of the Visegrad Group were Václav Havel, the president of Czechoslovakia, Lech Wałęsa the president of Poland and József Antall, the prime minister of Hungary, according to the V4 website.