We, the Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group, meeting in Bratislava on June 19, 2015 on the occasion of the official summit to mark the end of the one-year Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group adopt hereby the following Joint Statement:
We appreciate the steps of the European Union towards creating a true Energy Union based on solidarity, mutual trust and balanced approach to objectives of energy security, competitiveness and sustainability. In this context we highlight the importance of completing the Internal Energy Market, in particular the missing energy infrastructure, strengthening EU legislation related to security of supply and transparency of all gas agreements, while the confidentiality of commercially sensitive information needs to be guaranteed, as well as full implementation of the legislation and guaranteeing competitive and affordable energy prices. The infrastructural network in Central-Eastern Europe cannot be compared with that of the Western part of the Union. Therefore it is of utmost importance to address that situation. We urge that the funds of Connecting Europe Facility and European Fund for Strategic Investment should be focused on the development of infrastructure in our region that would strengthen the energy security of the European Union as a whole.
Completion of the North–South Gas Corridor in the V4 region and realization of projects aimed at diversification of gas sources and routes is of utmost importance. The beginning of the commercial operation of the Vecsés–Veľké Zlievce gas interconnector between Hungary and Slovakia will be a significant step forward. We are committed to speeding-up and finalizing as soon as possible other strategic energy infrastructure projects in and between the V4 countries, including the construction of the gas interconnector between Poland and Slovakia, the Czech–Polish interconnector “STORK II” (Libhošť-Hat-Kędzierzyn), as well as advancing V4 gas market integration in order to fully tap the benefits of developed infrastructure.
We acknowledge the efforts of the V4 countries in the development of transport links between themselves, especially those constituting parts of the TEN-T network, with a particular focus on transport routes in the North–South direction, in order to ensure interconnection of Central Europe with ports of the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Sea. By recently signing the Memorandum on Cooperation of the Visegrad Group in the Development of Transport Infrastructure, V4 states confirmed their determination to continue cooperation in implementing joint projects connected with major transport corridors.
In respect of European financial instruments, such as the Connecting Europe Facility and the European Fund for Strategic Investments, we join our efforts to make full use of these instruments in order to significantly improve the transport infrastructure, including important cross-border interconnections within the V4 region.
We recognise the progress achieved in defence cooperation over the last year considering the successful completion of all the tasks given in our declarations from October 2013 and June 2014. We paid special attention to the preparation of the key document to guide the joint V4 defence efforts in the coming years—the Action Plan of the Visegrad Group Defence Cooperation which was adopted by the V4 Defence Ministers on April 23, 2015 in Tomášov.
We welcome the fact that the process of building the V4 EU Battlegroup is nearly completed. We are convinced that the certification exercise Common Challenge 2015 will prove readiness and preparedness of the V4 EU Battlegroup for the standby phase in 2016.
We expect the V4 Defence Ministers to use lessons learned from the preparation of the V4 EU Battlegroup to further work on the establishment of a permanent V4 Modular Force which could be used as our joint regional contribution to NATO and EU capacities. In this regard, interoperability of the V4 countries' Armed Forces needs to be further increased and tested through regular joint V4 exercises. In this respect, we welcome the V4 Training and Exercise Strategy which was endorsed by the V4 Defence Ministers in Tomášov.
Our ambition is to make progress in defence capability development. The priority will be given to the most promising areas: Training and Exercises, Joint Logistic Support Group, CBRN, Joint Terminal Air Controllers, Special Operations Forces. In addition, we will continue to promote cooperation among defence industries. In this regard, we encourage our Defence Ministers to further develop cooperation in these areas with the aim to bring more tangible results. We welcome that the issue of Joint Airspace Protection was brought to the table. To support the concept of the joint V4 Airspace Protection, we hereby encourage our Defence Ministries to sign necessary bilateral Cross-Border Agreements between the respective V4 countries to cover the whole V4 airspace as soon as possible. These agreements may serve as a first step towards developing a regional approach. Progress in this area shall be presented at the Warsaw Summit 2016.
One of our main goals is to actively contribute to complementarity of the EU and NATO initiatives and support harmonisation of their actions within the changing security environment. We expect the Defence Ministers to use the V4 format, when and where appropriate, to implement the decisions of the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, to consult and harmonise our countries’ priorities for the July 2016 Warsaw Summit as well as further coordinate our positions regarding the European Council focusing also on security and defence issues and during the drafting procedure of the prospective new European Security Strategy.
In order to improve global competitiveness and visibility of the Visegrad region, we need to continue with our efforts to strengthen activities of V4 countries in the area of digital and innovation focused economy.
We welcome the Agreement on the Visegrad Patent Institute (VPI) signed on February 26, 2015 in Bratislava between the V4 Industrial Property Offices which will help fostering innovation, creativity, economic growth and competitiveness in the Central and Eastern European region. We remain committed to complete the national ratification procedures before the decision on the VPI’s appointment as an International Authority is taken by the Assembly of the Patent Cooperation Treaty Union in October 2015 in order that the VPI may become operational by July 1, 2016.
We confirm our willingness to build upon the progress achieved in the global expansion of the region’s innovation driven start-ups and fast growing innovative SMEs. The objective is to cooperate and exchange knowledge and information of our public stakeholders running start-up and SME support programs to boost innovation potential in the V4 (coordinated through the V4 Innovation Task Force). Drawing on the first positive experiences of the task force including a high profile tech match event (particularly the We4Startups event in Silicon Valley, April 2015), we support to foster the V4 activities already launched in Silicon Valley as well as to engage with other centres for innovative businesses worldwide. The aim is to facilitate the organization of joint start-up and innovation related events to assist regional V4 start-ups and fast growing businesses in expanding to global markets by matching them with clients, mentors and investors.
In view of bringing the Visegrad cooperation in the area of innovation policy forward, we encourage steps leading to a formalized V4 Innovation Task Force.
The Visegrad Group demonstrated its readiness to shape the discussions on the Digital Single Market in the European Union in the common V4 contribution on Digital Single Market of March 13, 2015 which outlines joint vision and priorities in key areas. The EU Digital Single Market Strategy provides an opportunity for the Visegrad countries to become digital by default. We agree to cooperate in negotiations on the Digital Single Market Initiatives from the very first stage. To make sure that all initiatives are designed in a way that brings benefits to all Member States and creates inclusive growth, it would be beneficial to carry out the territorial impact assessment of new EU legislation.
We stress the need to focus on ensuring that our companies, especially SMEs, can fully participate in the Digital Single Market. The elimination of barriers, especially in cross border e-commerce, is one of the key steps in providing concrete benefits of the Digital Single Market to citizens and businesses in the EU. In this spirit, we agree to include policies and concrete activities related to the digital agenda and innovation among the long term priorities of the Visegrad Group.
We welcome the adoption of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation of Public Service Media Organizations of the countries of the Visegrad Group in the Field of Media. We look forward to enhanced closer collaboration between the public TV and Radio institutions from our countries with the aim of elaborating joint activities/common projects and thus strengthening the flow of information, enhancing the mutual knowledge of our societies and increasing visibility of the Visegrad cooperation.
We note with satisfaction that the increasing role of the Visegrad Group has been recognized by many European and global partners. We have been actively promoting the successful V4+ format by enlarging the V4's outreach to other important global players as well as by maintaining close relations with traditional partners in close neighbourhood and Europe. In order to open up new opportunities for developing co-operation in the V4+ format we support joint efforts in the field of science, research and innovation.
We reiterate our full adherence to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and confirm our strong support for all efforts aimed at de-escalation and political solution. The Minsk Agreements remain the basis for the peaceful solution of the conflict; therefore we expect their full implementation. We remain deeply concerned about the recent increase in heavy fighting in Eastern Ukraine. The Russia-backed separatists' attack on Marinka on June 3 constitutes the most serious violation of the ceasefire regime since the signature of the Minsk agreements in February. V4 countries have strongly supported efforts to stabilize the situation in the country and remain firmly committed towards the European perspective of Ukraine. We further encourage Ukraine to continue the necessary constitutional, economic and political reforms.
We welcome that closer coordination has resulted in a new joint V4 project aimed at transfer of V4 reform know-how to Ukraine. By way of enhanced dialogue with various Ukrainian stakeholders, V4 countries are committed to share their expertise in key reform areas such as decentralization, management of public finances, fighting corruption, energy efficiency, security sector reform, civil society, education, media , as well as economic development and support to small and medium sized enterprises. On the other hand, we support every diplomatic effort that increases the chances of reaching a lasting peace in the region.
We welcome the results of the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga. We will continue our cooperation and coordination to strengthen the Partnership.
We acknowledge that the Visegrad Group has at its disposal concrete instruments, notably the Visegrad 4 Eastern Partnership (V4EaP) and Visegrad+ programs within the International Visegrad Fund, that have proven useful when it comes to the support of democratization and transformation processes in transition countries.
The V4 will continue a regular dialogue with the Western Balkan (WB) countries with the aim of supporting the socio-economic transformation and European integration process in the WB region. The V4 is ready to share its transformation experience and know-how which could help enhance regional and cross-border cooperation among countries of the region.
We stand ready to examine the Commission proposal on the European Agenda on Migration and the elements of the package published on May 27 on the basis of the outcome of the April, 23 special session of the European Council. We recall to develop a more systemic and geographically comprehensive approach to migration. Therefore we regret that the Agenda fails to address and find adequate solutions to migration pressure from and via the Western Balkan route as well as the Eastern route. We also recall the voluntary options when emergency relocation and resettlement are concerned. We do not deny the spirit of solidarity but we firmly argue the contradictory effects and pull factors of a possible mandatory redistribution scheme for asylum seekers. Furthermore, we claim for effective return of those persons who are not in need of international protection.
We hereby adopt the program of the incoming one-year V4 Presidency which is to be assumed by the Czech Republic as of July 1, 2015. Under the main motto “V4 Trust”, the Czech Presidency is determined to strengthen V4 cohesion by giving priority to joint infrastructure projects, building the regional energy market, enhancing security and defence cooperation, further developing the digital agenda, supporting awareness raising activity on the V4 start-ups, promoting solidarity within the EU and coordinating joint action towards external players.