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25 Years of the V4 as Seen by the Public



VISEGRAD BULLETIN 10 (1/2019)

February 1st, 2019

REVIEW OF MAJOR EVENTS UNDER THE SLOVAK PRESIDENCY OF THE VISEGRAD GROUP, January 2019 – June 2019


V4 Expert Meeting on High Speed Rail, 8 January 2019, Bratislava

V4 Experts on High-Speed Rail discussed on 8 January in Bratislava the possibilities of the development of a high-speed railway network in Central Europe. Experts dealt with operational and technical issues necessary for a successful planning of the project. It was the first meeting of the Working Group established during the V4 Ministerial Meeting on High Speed Rail, which took place on 30 September – 1 October in High Tatras under the Slovak V4 Presidency.


Meeting of the Defence Committees of the V4 Parliaments, 22-23 January 2019, Bratislava

The National Council of the Slovak Republic hosted the meeting of the Defence Committees of the V4 Parliaments in January. Members of delegations discussed the role of the OCSE in preserving and restoring peace in Europe, priorities of the Slovak Chairmanship of the OSCE and illegal migration as national security challenge. Parlamentarians underlined the importance of the V4 unity and called for the restoration of the proper functioning of the Schengen area and deepening of cooperation, particularly the security dimension of cooperation. The meeting also focused on exchange of experience with regard to transposition of the European Firearms Directive into national legislation of the V4 countries and the situation in Ukraine posing a serious security concern for V4 countries.


Consultations of V4 and Russian Political Directors, 24 January 2019, Moscow

The consultations of the V4 Political Directors with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation A. Grushko took place on 24 January 2019 in Moscow. The discussion focused primarily on the EU-Russia and NATO-Russia relations, conflict in Ukraine, Western Balkans and Syria. During the meeting, the V4 partners reiterated the common EU and NATO positions on these issues.


Visegrad Military Medicine Conference – VIMIMED 2019, 4-6 February 2019, Liptovský Mikuláš

The Military Medical Service of the Slovak Armed Forces organised the 1st Visegrad Military Medicine Conference – VIMIMED 2019 under the SVK V4 Presidency. Its purpose was to initiate deeper cooperation among V4 countries in the Military Medicine area. The Visegrad Military Medicine Conference – VIMIMED 2019 took place on 4-6 February 2019 at the Slovak Armed Forces Academy in Liptovský Mikuláš as part of the Slovak Visegrad Group Presidency, hoping to establish a new tradition for the V4 military medical services. The conference was attended by about 20 participants from each V4 country. In addition, we were pleased to welcome representatives from the NATO Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine Budapest and from the Multinational Medical Coordination Centre Koblenz. The conference emphasised the importance of cooperation and exchange of expertise among V4 countries and covered a variety of areas of military medicine.

Highlights of the Conference:

  • Exchange of expertise among V4 military medical services; familiarization with medical units pre-deployment preparation process to fulfil tasks of domestic and international crisis management; launch of cooperation on medical units training process, including potential exchange programmes and joint activities;
  • Higher level of interoperability of V4 military medical services on joint deployment;
  • Military Medical Logistics – exchange of experience and knowledge in terms of medical materiel and equipment leading to a more efficient and targeted procurement process;
  • Organization and coordination of veterinary support on operations, coordination of V4 personnel, materiel and procedures;
  • Exchange of experience and knowledge about aeromedical assets, materiel, equipment and training procedures/education;
  • Generate joint topics and areas of interest in Force Health Protection, to share good practices and enhance quality of public health services either for military community or general public on occurrence of public health threats; Identify possible gaps and design feasible plans on how to improve selected capabilities.

Participants in the working groups had an opportunity to exchange experience and expertise on the areas mentioned above.


Meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Parliaments of the Visegrad Group Countries, 25-26 February 2019, Bratislava

The National Council of the Slovak Republic hosted the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Parliaments of the Visegrad Group Countries on 25 - 26 February 2019. Parlamentarians discussed the future of the European Union after Brexit and recognized the shared interest of mantaining a good relationship with the United Kingdom after its withdrawal. The agenda of this meeting also featured the topic of Eastern Partnership and its importance for the V4 Countries. The third topic of discussions focused on the International Visegrad Fund and its successful activities both inside and outside the V4 Countries.


42nd Working Session of V4K Military Human Resources Management Working Group, 25-29 March 2019, Balatonakarattya, Hungary

Based on agreement of the V4 Ministers of Defence, working sessions of senior officials and experts have been organised by respective countries in the field of human resources of the V4 Ministries of Defence on a regular basis and on a rotating principle since 1997. Their aim is to exchange experience on current human resources management issues. The main goal of the international activity is to gather information from individual V4 member countries on human resources management, including especially to understand each other’s approach when it comes to dealing with negative phenomena in the Slovak Armed Forces, which have been on the increase in recent years.

The 42nd Working Session was hosted by Hungary and took place at the Recreation, Training and Conference Center (HDF RTCC), Balatonakarattya.

The main topics of the 42nd V4 Human Resources Working Group session were:

1. Labour Market - Current Situation and Challenges,

2. Stabilization of Military Personnel,

3. Time Management and Resource Allocation of Military Personnel.

Topics #1 and #2 resonated the most at the meeting and raised a lot of questions. We came to a conclusion that the situation on the labour market is identical in all four countries. The good economic situation, the free labour market, the low rates of unemployment, and the recent demographic trends have caused labour shortages. With a significant increase in salaries, declining unemployment rates and a good economic situation, it is increasingly more difficult to find adequately trained and suitable employees. Nowadays, there is increased demand for immigrant workforce from less developed countries in Europe. Employers prefer hiring people with previous work experience, giving more opportunities to ex-service personnel, as they look for a civilian job after the end of their military careers. The participating parties agreed that there is a direct correlation between the financial remuneration and motivation and the stabilization of military personnel. Therefore, in order to maintain, stabilise and motivate military personnel, the Ministries of Defence of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have increased and will continue to gradually increase their HR expenses to a level that keeps them ahead of the other armed forces, while at the same time maintaining a good position on the labour market despite the continuous salary increases in the civil sector. Among the other methods of staff stabilization in place, particularly in Hungary and partially in the Czech Republic, is support for families and children (building nurseries for crew members), free basic dental care, and discounts of 5-15% in civilian companies/shops for professional soldiers and family members (e.g. in support of physical health, fitness and well-being at sports shops, car resellers, construction companies, etc.). The goals of the working session were accomplished and the meeting was inspiring and meaningful. It revealed the different approaches and options we have for handling and solving negative phenomena in the Slovak Armed Forces, which have been on the increase in recent years.

 

V4 Expert Workshop „New Approaches to the European 112 Emergency Number“, 27-28 February 2019, Bratislava

The aim of the workshop was to exchange experience of emergency services experts with the introduction of text messages at 112 and eCall, a pan-European system for cars, which in the event of a traffic accident automatically calls the rescue units of the integrated rescue system. These new ways of calling for emergency aid or emergency assistance provide additional opportunities for expanding the sense of security of EU citizens and visitors. The eCall itself has a great potential in helping victims mainly in remote and mountainous areas. The very valuable experience of experts presented on the workshop will be taken into account in further improving the quality of service to citizens.


International conference "V4 - Slovakia towards Smart Cities", 5 March 2019, Bratislava

The conference focused on building Smart Cities in conditions of the V4 countries. Smart City is a new approach to urban and regional development, management and planning, using innovation. The Smart Cities concept requires co - operation between the city, the municipality or the region, citizens and technology companies whose intelligent solutions can solve the practical problems of everyday life. The part of conference was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic and InnoEnergy organisation, which focuses on new solutions in the areas of energy, mobility and smart technologies. This memorandum will make it possible for the smart cities to gain better knowledge already existing at EU level. State Secretaries and representatives of the ministries of the V4 countries responsible for the Smart Cities agenda discussed parallel to conference. Their meeting was led by State Secretary of Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic Rastislav Chovanec, with the participation of State Secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Innovation and Technology Balázs Weingartner, Malgorzata Jarosińska - Jedynak from the Polish Ministry for Investment and Economic Development and David Koppitz from the Czech Ministry for Regional Development. Representatives of V4 countries presented the Smart Cities situation in their countries and agreed on deeper mutual co - operation, which should help to expand the Smart Cities solutions in Central Europe.

 

V4 Meeting of Directors for South Eastern Europe of the MFAs, 7 March 2019, Bratislava

Directors for South Eastern Europe of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the V4 Group met in Bratislava on 7 March. They exchanged views on the developments in the Western Balkan region and discussed implementation of EU enlargement policy in the upcoming months with special attention to regular Commission´s reports and June GAC meeting. They also touched upon some aspects of organisation of the V4 + Turkey Ministerial Meeting as well as V4 + Western Balkans Ministerial Meeting, which will take place in April and May 2019, respectively.


Meeting on the Joint Tourism Marketing of the V4 Countries at the level of State Secretaries, 12-13 March 2019, Štrbské Pleso

The first day of the V4 High-Level Meeting on Tourism ended with the signing of the joint Marketing Plan for 2019 by representatives of national tourism organizations.

The conference focused on the situation of the tourism industry in the four countries, its sustainability as well as opportunities for cooperation in the sector. Partners have agreed on a more intense cooperation.

Finally, the representatives of the Ministries of the Visegrad Group countries signed the Tourism Cooperation Protocol. The Protocol aims to boost the effectiveness of the tourism marketing strategies of the four countries both via joint projects and by taking advantage of their individual opportunities and experiences.


Meeting of Directors of Migration and Asylum Offices, 12-13 March 2019, Bratislava

The directors of the V4 Migration Offices discussed the current challenges of migration like the need to prepare for the situation after the UK's departure from the EU. There are also organizational and legislative changes, or the need to update V4 countries' migration strategies to reflect the changing situation, with a view beyond 2020. The participants also discussed the progress in implementing V4 joint projects, such as the Migration Crises Response Mechanism (MCRM). There is absolute agreement between the V4 countries on the need to focus efforts on countries of origin; in this respect, a project in Jordan to promote asylum capacity will be launched this year. A necessary prerequisite for targeted activities is the correct analysis of migration data, which is also to be supported by the joint V4 Migration Analytical Center based in Poland. MCRM projects also focus on training of asylum experts who are sent to Member States exposed to greater migratory pressures.


Meeting of the Speakers of V4 + Benelux Parliaments, 24-25 March 2019, Piešťany

On 24 - 25 March 2019, a two-day conference of the Presidents of Parliaments of the V4 Countries took place in the spa town of Piešťany, while the traditional V4 format was extended by representatives of the Benelux Parliaments.

The main part of the discussion focused on „The European Union: Ongoing Challenges and Future Prospects“. The delegations discussed the issue of democratic legitimacy of the EU, with particular emphasis on the need to clearly define the limits of subsidiarity in order to eliminate ambiguities as to the precise competences of the States and the EU. Furthermore, delegations dealt with the issue of the European elections in May and the need to increase voter turnout, as well as the EU's enlargement by the Western Balkans.

It was underlined that the Slovak V4 Presidency is taking place in a situation when the European Union faces many unprecedented challenges - the rise of populism and Euroscepticism, the migration, possibly the financial and economic crisis, Brexit, but also the deterioration of the European continent's security environment.

 

V4 countries discussed with Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia on nature conservation, 25-27 March 2019, Smolenice

The meeting of representatives of the Visegrad Group countries and other invited states (Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia) on nature, biodiversity and landscape issues was held at the Smolenice Castle under the V4 Presidency of Slovakia. The main topics of the meeting included the mapping and evaluation of ecosystem services, their use in practice, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in relation to the conservation of biodiversity and Natura 2000 network as well as its future settings after 2020, and the importance of pollinators, including bees, not just from biodiversity protection. The program also included an excursion to the Drina Cave and the Small Carpathians PLA with expert commentary and support from the PLA and the State Nature Conservatory (SNC). At the meeting, common conclusions on individual negotiating points were defined, the conclusions on the part of the CAP will be presented in the coming days at the meeting of the Directors of Nature and Biodiversity Protection of EU Member States in Brasov, Romania (April 8 - 9, 2019) and a joint letter on other professional use by all V4 + 4 meeting participants at national level. Among the conclusions of the debate on the CAP, on which all participants agreed, we can include the importance of continuing measures and schemes for Natura 2000 areas, both on agricultural and forest land, with sufficient funding and linking up with the upcoming Priority Action Framework of the Natura 2000 Funding in the Slovak Republic in the EU programming period 2021 - 2027, in which financial allocations for the needs of Natura 2000 protection will be more precisely designed. The individual CAP schemes should be set up so that the results of their implementation are clearly visible in favour of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, with all relevant nature, biodiversity and landscape conservation institutions and organizations involved (including environmental inspections) in their preparation, setting, implementation and control, eco-schemes need to be set up simply and comprehensibly so that they can be effectively implemented by farmers and conservationists and bring the expected positive impact on agricultural development while protecting biodiversity and nature. The V4 + 4 representatives stressed the importance of setting the future CAP in the right way, also in relation to nature, biodiversity and landscape protection, and in this respect appreciate the continued coordination of actions in the near future.


Conference NEWMATEC 2019, 26-27 March 2019, Šamorín

The annual NEWMATEC Conference took place in the Slovak town of Šamorín on March 26 - 27, 2019. A part of it was a panel discussion of the State Secretaries from the V4 countries. The main topic of this year’s conference - The future of the automotive industry in the V4 region – was focused on alternative and hydrogen vehicles, automotive megatrends, autonomous and inter-connected vehicles, shared mobility and new trends in the behavior of incoming generation of automotive users.

The panel discussion started with the speech of the Minister of Economy of the Slovak Republic Peter Žiga and its participants were State Secretaries Eduard Muřický (CZ), György László (HU) and Vojtech Ferencz (SK), who presented the stated phenomena from the perspective of their countries. During the conference, State Secretaries had the opportunity to personally try driving two hydrogen cars and receive detailed information about this modern technology.


V4 Surface Based Air Defence (SBAD) Modernization Working Group, 26-29 March 2019, Liptovský Mikuláš

The aim of the workshop was to prepare the detailed content of the Analytical Study under the title of “Modernization of Surface Based Air Defence Systems in V4 Countries”. The workshop was held on 26-29 March 2019 at the Slovak Armed Forces Academy in Liptovský Mikuláš, Slovakia. During the fruitful discussions, participants of the workshop agreed on the detailed structure of the Analytical Study and on the timelines and tasks to be delivered by each V4 country for the next workshop in October 2019.


V4 Defence Planning Group Meeting, 27-28 March 2019, Bratislava

The second meeting of the V4 Defence Planning Group under the Slovak V4 Presidency 2018/2019 took place on 28 March 2019 in Bratislava. Representatives of the V4 Defence Planning Group met to discuss possible areas of cooperation in the capabilities development domain and the state of play of current EU/NATO defence initiatives (Permanent Structured Cooperation, European Defence Fund, and European Defence Industrial Development Programme). The V4 representatives shared information on the ongoing and planned capability development programmes in their respective countries and agreed to incorporate their plans on new EU initiatives into the V4 Capability Development Matrix.

 
 

V4 expert workshop on electronization of public procurement, 28 March 2019, Bratislava

The Office for Public Procurement of the Slovak Republic organised a V4 expert workshop on electronization of public procurement that took place at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic on 28 March 2019. Among the speakers were representatives of partner state institutions of V4 countries, Isabel-Maria Rosa from the European Commission, as well as Mattheiu Cahen from OECD. „This workshop was certainly useful in sharing experiences from different countries because in many countries the challenges are the same or similar. Collectively we can find the answers to those challenges,“ said M. Cahen from OECD.

„I am glad that the Office organised another forum with international participation where we open a very recent topic. We showed our approach to strengthening of transparency on the example of contract under the limit which since 1 April 2019 can be done though our electronic public procurement system. In this regard we are the leaders among the V4 countries. We also presented our „Public Procurement System“ that is currently in the phase of preparation. It is expected to bring more substantial changes in our effort to reform public procurement,“ said the Chairman of the SK Office M. Hlivák.


Meeting of the Heads of V4 operational services in the field of smuggling, 8-9 April 2019, Krpáčovo

Heads of the operational services of the V4 countries and Ukraine focused on strengthening regional cooperation and exchange of experience in the field of smuggling investigations. Furthermore, they assessed the security situation in the area of illegal migration and smuggling on the Western Balkan migration route and in the area of protection of the external Schengen border.


V4 + CEDC Defence Policy Directors Meeting, 10-11 April 2019, Brussels

During their second meeting under the Slovak V4 Presidency, V4 Policy Directors discussed current V4 cooperation initiatives, as well as the potential for their further development. In addition, they shared views on current EU and NATO initiatives, seeking synergies in implementing them and coordinating positions that could then be jointly shared during meetings at the level of NATO and EU Defence Ministers. In the discussion, participants expressed their satisfaction with the level of defence cooperation achieved in the V4 format and confirmed their continuous support for the Slovak Presidency as well as the priorities set by the Slovak Republic for SK PRES V4.

 

Discover Youth Talents Conference, 11-12 April 2019, Bratislava

On 11-12 April 2019, the V4 and EaP conference with participation of Western Balkan Countries took place in Bratislava. Overall goal of the conference was to create a platform for discussion aimed at supporting the full development of talent with emphasis on non-formal learning, sharing examples of good practice in youth work and its role in developing potential between V4, EaP and WB. Visegrad Group and Eastern Partnership countries have a productive and steadily developing relationship with substantial dialogue across a wide range of youth issues, working seminars and annual V4 presidency meeting. For the first time in the history, we have decided to enlarge the scope of this cooperation and invited the representatives from Western Balkans to attend the seminar. The main aim of the conference was to discuss the positive influence and enable full development of the potential, the systematic support of talented young people with fewer opportunities and the issue of their identification in informal and non-formal education, sharing examples of good practice and highlighting the role of talent support and development in various fields. It also focused on current challenges such as increasing the capacity of youth workers to use innovative approaches, discovering potential, highlighting cooperation between sectors or working with young people at risk of marginalization.


Meeting of the Chief Hygienists of Visegrad group, 16-17 April 2019, High Tatras

On 16 – 17 April 2019, Meeting of the Chief Hygienists of Visegrad Group countries was held. Leading representatives of public health from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland discussed the topics of vaccination, situation in occurrence of measles, check-up of vaccination status of children subjected to regular mandatory vaccination system, vaccination against tuberculosis as well as actual tasks of public health in supervision over the quality of drinking water. Meeting proved that the discussed broad topics are highly actual and belong to priorities of all presented countries.


V4 + France Meeting of the Foreign Ministers, 18 April 2019, Bratislava

A working meeting of the V4 and French Foreign Ministers took place in Bratislava on 18 April 2019 from the initiative of the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák hosted his V4 partners Tomáš Petřiček from the Czech Republic, Jacek Czaputovicz from Poland and Péter Szijjartó from Hungary, at a meeting organized in an extended format with their French counterpart, Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. The V4 Ministers have expressed their solidarity with the French partner in regards to the tragic fire that damaged the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, the spiritual and cultural icon of the European and world heritage. Ministers discussed the future of the European Union, including UK leaving the EU, as well as current developments in the international global environment. Ministers agreed that we can better and more effectively manage the challenges we face today by working together and looking for common solutions. This also corresponds with the principles of the Slovak Presidency of the V4: to promote a positive European agenda to strengthen the EU. "Within the V4, we want to participate in the debate on the future of the European Union and as the V4 Presidency; we want to bring constructive proposals that are widely accepted. V4 countries are integral part of the European Union. It is our common living area, which affords us high levels of security and prosperity. The Union is also our common home. We want EU, which is at the forefront of technological and modernisation trends, and which’s foreign policy weight corresponds with its economic size,” Minister Lajčák said. At the same time, the V4 + France meeting was an opportunity to talk about support for the integration efforts of the Western Balkan countries into the EU, which is possible only after meeting the set criteria. Other topics of the fruitful discussion of the Foreign Ministers were transatlantic cooperation and relations with China. The Ministers also discussed current issues concerning the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is currently chaired by Slovakia. In this respect, M. Lajčák presented the priorities of the Slovak Chairmanship. “We are currently facing several critical challenges - economic, social, security, and climate. We live in an extremely fast and changing world. The Slovak Republic, as part of the Euro-Atlantic value community, also with regards to its current OSCE Chairmanship, wants to contribute to an active dialogue between partners. Conflict prevention, safe future and effective multilateralism are the priorities of the Slovak Republic’s Chairmanship,” Minister Lajčák highlighted. The subject of the meeting was also development in Ukraine, where the second round of presidential elections will take place next weekend (20 -21 April 2019). Ministers also discussed number of other topics that dominate the current international scene.


V4 + Germany Policy Planners' meeting, 30 April 2019, Bratislava

On 30 April 2019 consultations were held between V4 and Germany policy planners in Bratislava. Participants discussed EU´s Eastern policy, Transatlantic relations and the Future of Europe.


V4 + Turkey Meeting of the Foreign Ministers, 30 April 2019, Bratislava

Mr. Miroslav Lajčák hosted his V4 partners Tomáš Petřiček from the Czech Republic, Péter Szijjartó from Hungary, and Marcin Przydacz, MFA Undersecretary of State for Eastern Policy from Poland, at a working meeting organized in an extended format with their Turkish counterpart, Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. The working meeting took place in Bratislava on 30 April 2019 from the initiative of the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group. Slovakia's V4 Presidency confirmed its interest in effective communication and intensive cooperation with Turkey, our ally, an important partner and a candidate country for EU membership. Ministers discussed the situation in the Middle East, migration issues and fight against terrorism. They appreciated Turkey's role in solving the migration crisis, which accommodated nearly 4 million refugees, especially from Syria, which also constitutes financial burden for Turkey despite the EU’s financial assistance. In this context, they discussed a wide range of international-political and interrelated issues related to efforts to stabilize the region, to end the ongoing conflicts and to create preconditions for peaceful development. Unlike the V4 countries, Turkey has direct experience with the region, and therefore the V4 countries have highlighted Turkey’s importance in the ongoing processes that directly or indirectly affect the stability of the European area, including the Central European area. Ministers agreed that the conflict in Syria can only end by negotiations under the auspices of the UN, while the reconstruction of Syria that will follow, must go hand in hand with its political transformation. Ministers also expressed their support for the resumption of the Middle East Peace Process in order to achieve a lasting and fair solution. Minister Lajčák i. a. believes that "only patiently seeking a political solution by international and domestic partners in a spirit of effective multilateralism can lead to future stability and sustainable solutions“. Ministers also talked about the EU-Turkey relations and the country's accession process towards the EU. They agreed that the accession process is an effective tool for transformation in order to implement the Union's common values and standards. The Visegrad countries expressed their support for Turkey's accession process and supported its commitment to meet the relevant criteria.

 

V4 + Eastern Partnership Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in the frame of the Slovak Presidency of the V4, 6 May 2019, Bratislava

Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Mr. Miroslav Lajčák welcomed delegations of his counterparts from the V4 countries and from the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldavia and Ukraine) for a Meeting in the frame of the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group. The meeting took place symbolically on the eve of the 10th Anniversary since the program of the Eastern Partnership was adopted. Other guests attending the meeting were Teodor Viorel Melescanu, MFA Minister of Romania in the position of Chairman of the EU Council and Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for the European Neighbourhood Policy and EU enlargement negotiations. The aim of the event was to contribute to the celebrations of the 10th Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership and to initiate an open and constructive debate on its future. The participants of the meeting agreed and underlined that the EU's stable and prosperous neighbours are a strategic concern. The Eastern Partnership is a successful policy of the European Union and the V4 countries are strong supporters of continuing to keep the Eastern Partnership as one of EU’s priorities. Ministers agreed that the EU cooperation with the Eastern Partnership has produced a number of positive results; it is beneficial for both sides and stimulates the strengthening of trust between the stakeholders. At the same time, they support the idea of keeping inclusiveness, differentiation, conditionality and respect for common values in the Eastern Partnership. Its objectives must be ambitious, comprehensive and real. Ministers discussed future goals of the Eastern Partnership. In this context, they touched on the issues of people-to-people contacts, economic development, connectivity, infrastructure building, energy and regional security. V4 Foreign Ministers highlighted the need to continue to implement reforms that are the only path to stability and prosperity in the Eastern Partnership countries. In this respect, they confirmed their willingness and readiness to provide comprehensive assistance. At the end of the negotiations, V4 ministers adopted “The Visegrad Group Joint Statement on 10th Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership”.


Meeting of the Agriculture Ministers of the Visegrad group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia and France, 8-10 May 2019, Stará Lesná

The Meeting was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic. The discussions were divided into three separate sessions, each focused on one of the actual topics. The objectives of the Meeting were to encourage an active participation of the member states of the BIOEAST Initiative into the discussion on the Initiative´s future, to provide information about state of play and next steps concerning Dual Food Quality issue and inform participants about “the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe” which Slovakia will hold in 2020. During the Meeting “Common Declaration of agriculture and research ministers of the BIOEAST Member States” was signed. At last, the Presidency in the Visegrad Group was symbolically handed over to Czech Republic.


V4 + France + Germany Defence Ministers Meeting, 13 May 2019, Brussels

Slovak Minister of Defence Peter Gajdoš met with his partners from the Visegrad Group and the Ministers of Defence of France and Germany in Brussels on 13 May 2019. Historically, this was the first meeting in the V4 + FRA + DEU format. And, importantly, it took place during the Slovak V4 Presidency. Common goals in the fields of EU and NATO defence initiatives and international crisis management operations were the main themes during the talks. The Defence Ministers devoted close attention to issues relating to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), Military Mobility, and closer cooperation between the EU and NATO. Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš informed his partners about the state of play in the V4 flagship defence cooperation project – V4 EU Battlegroup, which is due to be on standby from July 2019, whereas the Visegrad Four countries have already declared their intention to stand up another V4 EU Battlegroup, which will take on a standby role in the first half of 2023. The Defence Ministers also addressed their national deployments on international crisis management missions and operations, especially in light of the fight against illegal migration and terrorism. They praised the contribution that Op EUNAVFOR MED Sophia and Op EUFOR Althea, joined by the Slovak Republic as well, have made towards this end. As part of talks, individual countries reported on their progress in implementing the NATO Readiness Initiative. The partners also discussed increasing defence spending, strengthening capabilities, and sharing experience from their engagement in NATO’s missions and activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the Baltics.


V4 Senior Body Meeting, 21 – 22 May 2019, Tomášov

On 21-22 May 2019, the State Secretaries of the V4 Ministries of Defence (Deputy Defence Ministers) met in ‘Senior Body’ format in Tomášov, Slovakia. This was the final meeting in this format under the Slovak V4 Presidency, before the Czech Republic takes over in July 2019.

In the opening session, State Secretary of the SVK Ministry of Defence Róbert Ondrejcsák summarised the activities throughout the Slovak V4 Presidency. Then, Secretary Ondrejcsák, along with his counterparts Jakub Landovský, István Szabó and Tomasz Szatkowski, paid close attention to current NATO, EU, and V4 issues. Partners also agreed to consider a possible V4 brigade-sized contribution to the NATO Readiness Initiative. During the final session, Secretary Ondrejcsák wished his Czech colleagues the best of luck with the Czech V4 Presidency, starting from 1 July 2019, and Czech Deputy Defence Minister Jakub Landovský introduced the Czech V4 Presidency priorities. They include harmonising V4 national procurement plans, implementing the training and exercise strategy, deployments on operations in the Sahel region, and, last but not least, ensuring continuity of the V4 Battlegroup concept.


V4 Heads of International Law Departments meeting 31 May 2019, Bratislava

Meeting of the V4 MFA International Law Directors took place on 31 May 2019 in Bratislava. Participants (Metod Špaček, Szabolcs Szigeti, Piotr Rychlik and Deputy Director Milan Beránek) had constructive and open discussion on numerous issues such as V4 at the UN, intra EU BITs, immunities of states (authorities, courts, etc.) – jurisdiction over foreign states/state authorities, immunities of honorary consuls, public international law aspects of Brexit, International Criminal Court, international humanitarian law strengthening, mutual legal assistance initiative, legal assistance with respect to occupied territories and the OSCE legal status.

 

V4 Expert Meeting on MFF 2021 – 2027, 31 May 2019, Bratislava

V4 experts discussed on 31 May in Bratislava the state of play and possible further development of the ongoing negotiations on the new Multiannual Financial Framework 2021 – 2027. The State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Mr. František Ružička has delivered a welcome address to the participants. The expert discussion focused on the possibilities of the future V4 cooperation as well as on Friends of Cohesion coordination in the months to come. The ambitious and well-balanced EU budget ensuring enough resources for the strong traditional policies, namely the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy, as well as for the new challenges, like climate change, security and migration, is in the interest of all V4 partners.


V4 Special Operations Forces Conference, 5-6 June 2019, Training Centre Lešť

As the Slovak V4 Presidency draws to a close, the V4 Special Operations Forces Conference took place on 5-6 June 2019 at the Training Centre Lešť. The programme focused on strengthening, deepening and developing the cooperation among the V4 Special Operations Forces, projecting a common vision for the Czech V4 Presidency in the upcoming period, and the preparations for a joint extensive SOF exercise, dubbed Slovak SOF Shield, due to take place in 2022.

 

V4 Defence Ministers Meeting, 10-11 June 2019, Piešťany

Over the past year the Slovak V4 Presidency has brought several successes in the field of security and defence, both at the level of regional and global cooperation. The V4 Defence Ministers agreed on this during their final meeting held under the aegis of the Slovak V4 Presidency in Piešťany on 10 June 2019.

The Visegrad Group has recorded a number of successes, such as the high readiness of its flagship project – V4 EU Battlegroup, to be on standby starting from 1 July 2019, the V4 Defence Ministers Meeting + France and Germany (V4 + FRA + DEU), and a novelty in the field of education and training – the Visegrad Military Medicine Conference (VIMIMED) 2019. Those results are reinforced by the fact that the SVK MOD has organised a total of 24 events over the period. After taking stock of the Slovak V4 Presidency achievements, partners paid special attention to current EU and NATO defence initiatives. In this connection, they took note of the progress made in individual projects of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and discussed their participation in international crisis management missions and operations and closer coordination of national positions on EU and NATO initiatives. The Joint Communiqué by V4 Ministers of Defence, reflecting the V4’s year-long efforts and outcomes, was adopted at the conclusion of the meeting.

 

 


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