On June 3rd Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Poland and the Slovak Republic met in Wieliczka at the Summit of the Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group (V4) countries. The meeting was convened on the occasion of the official end of the Polish Visegrad Group Presidency and its handover to Hungary, which will chair the V4 in the next 12 months.
The Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk presented the conclusions regarding Poland's activities and successful initiatives which benefited the consolidation of V4's integration. He also emphasised the V4 achievements on European scale during the Polish Presidency and noted the role of the V4+ format of cooperation which has proven to be a useful and appreciated tool for spreading in the wider Central Europe. The Polish Prime Minister underlined the importance of close cooperation of the V4 with successive EU Presidencies as it allows both a direct dialogue and a better understanding of the concept of solidarity among 27 Member States. It serves also the purpose to voice V4's perspective on several issues on European agenda.
The Heads of Governments of the V4 countries have jointly assessed that common initiatives of V4 countries in reaction to current EU policy's challenges allowed the V4 to become an active player on the European arena. The energy-climate package negotiations or the inauguration of Eastern Partnership can serve as examples of endeavours on which we can further build. The V4 countries acknowledged to the current Czech Presidency of the EU. The V4 Prime Ministers discussed the issue of a closer cooperation of V4 EU Permanent Representations for the benefit of future EU Presidencies of the remaining V4 countries.
The Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico informed about Slovakia's candidacy for the seat of the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) and asked his V4 partners for support. The Heads of Governments of the V4 countries have assessed the Slovak candidacy as strong and well prepared. The final decision on this issue will be taken at the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council in Luxemburg on 12 June 2009. The Prime Minister Robert Fico also presented the latest steps taken in creation of the Central European Investment Bank.
Mr. Gordon Bajnai, the Prime Minister of Hungary, outlined the major priorities of the upcoming Hungarian V4 Presidency focusing on the challenges for the region as regards the current EU agenda. From the regional perspective Hungary would like to continue the works of its predecessors on the cohesion of V4 internal cooperation and wishes to strengthen the V4 identity for all V4 citizens through more visible actions. The development of the poorest areas of the region is one of the biggest challenges for the V4 and Hungary will strive for simplified procedures in access to EU funding.
Social integration of Roma communities will also be an important issue to deal with during the next 12 months. V4 experts should consider their specific contribution to the existing regional frameworks, such as the one provided by the EU Platform for Roma Inclusion launched in Prague recently. Additionally, the projects supported by the International Visegrad Fund's Strategic Grants will aim the social integration of Roma communities.
Hungarian V4 Presidency will also focus on the European integration process of the Western Balkans (WB). Launching of long term joint projects dedicated to WB' societies will be examined. Countries addressed by the Eastern Partnership (EaP) will also be regarded as a priority in V4 external activities with a view to accelerating political association and further integration of the EaP countries within the European Union. In this respect the Hungarian Presidency will promote the EaP including the work of the platforms with Eeastern European neighbourhood countries.
The Prime Ministers also discussed the global financial and economic situation and underlined the importance of the implementation of the conclusions adopted at the G-20 Summit in London on 2 April 2009. They expected the adopted measures to contribute to stabilisation of economic activity and facilitate recovery. The economic situation in Central Europe needs to be addressed also by a joint V4 dialogue of governmental entities with the business community as synchronised actions can alleviate the consequences of the crisis.
Furthermore, the Heads of Governments discussed the role of the International Visegrad Fund
, the sole V4 institution. Its activities were highly valued and have contributed since 2000 to the integration of local V4 communities and have allowed the flow of youth among V4 countries and bordering regions (WB and Eastern neighbours). The Prime Ministers also expressed their gratitude to the active role of the IVF's Executive Director, Mr. Kristóf Forrai, whose 3-year term ends this August and whose position will be handed over to Mr. Petr Vágner.
It has been assessed that the IVF should be one of the most important tools for the development of cooperation of V4 countries with other partners.
The Prime Ministers of the V4 countries agreed to increase their contribution to the budget of the IVF by EUR 250,000 each, starting from 2010.
The Heads of Governments of the V4 countries discussed the questions of energy security with special emphasis on the regional context and exchanged views on the progress of preparations to COP-15 in Copenhagen.
The decision was taken to re-establish in coming days the "V4 energy infrastructure group" consisting of high-level governmental plenipotentiaries whose role will be to examine possible joint V4 energy infrastructure projects that should be undertaken in near future.
There was general consensus among V4 countries that climate change is a common challenge to the EU and the international community and can only be effectively addressed by joint effort of all countries developed and developing alike, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and capability. The Prime Ministers noted that negotiation process related to COP-15 is beginning to gain momentum and expressed the hope that the June European Council will be able to come up with satisfactory solutions regarding financing of climate change.