REVIEW OF MAJOR EVENTS UNDER THE SLOVAK PRESIDENCY OF THE VISEGRAD GROUP, January 2019 – June 2019
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, Liptovsky Mikulas
The conference took place in Armed Forces Academy in Liptovsky Mikulas on 4 – 6 February 2019 as a part of Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group and is hoped to become the beginning of periodical tradition for V4 military medical services. Conference was attended by about 20 participants from each country. In addition, we were pleased to welcome representatives of NATO Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine Budapest and Multinational Medical Coordination Centre Koblenz.The conference emphasized cooperation and knowledge exchange among V4 countries covering a variety of military medicine areas. Participants had the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience in working groups focused to areas mentioned below.
Highlights of the conference were:
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.
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 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.