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2003/2004 Czech Presidency




Programme of the Czech Republic's V4 Presidency (July 2003 - June 2004)
 
The Czech Republic is taking over the Presidency from the Slovak Republic at a time when the Visegrad countries can review the results of their cooperation in the framework of the V4 with satisfaction and consider how to develop their work together.
In the twelve years that have passed since the establishment of the Visegrad group, its members have managed to fulfil most of the key goals they were set under the Visegrad Declaration from 1991. The priority now is to continue all the positive aspects achieved so far and seek out new forms of cooperation corresponding to the changed environment in which V4 activities will be carried out after the accession of the Visegrad countries to the EU. Continuity and future are the two key words characterizing the Czech Presidency.
Continuity will involve our efforts to follow up smoothly on, and to develop further, all the contacts and concrete projects implemented in the scope of individual ministries or at a civil level. We would like to make Schengen issues, which are constantly gaining in topicality in the context of accession to the EU, a priority, because this is the next step on the way to ensuring full integration into the EU. Although this step will be difficult, our cooperation can make it much easier.
Another long-term aim we are keen to continue actively fulfilling is the strengthening of personal ties between citizens, inter alia by means of cross-border cooperation and support for the activities of the International Visegrad Fund.
Under our concept of the future, the plan is to bring a successful conclusion, by the end of the Czech Presidency, to our debate of the future form of Visegrad cooperation and prepare a new Visegrad document defining the new goals of the V4 within the EU. We believe this document should be presented to the public at the next official V4 summit, currently pencilled in for May 2004.
As the V4 Presidency Country, we will be ready to assist Hungary, currently presiding over the International Visegrad Fund, in the screening of the Fund's status and in preparations for its adaptations to the new operating conditions within the EU.
The regional groupings already up and running within the EU could serve as one of sources of inspiration for our discussion on the future of the V4.
Simultaneously with preparation of the new program document we will aspire to introduce stepwise practical cooperation in new areas in the sense of the document "Guidelines on Future of Visegrad Co-operation" approved at the summit in June 2003. Topical task for the Visegrad countries, resulting from the June summit, is to consult positions to important issues of the Intergovernmental Conference of the EU countries.

POLITICAL CO-OPERATION
Coordinator: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

General V4 issues
  • Meeting of the Presidents of the V4 countries (November 2003, Hungary);
  • Meetings of the representatives of V4 Parliaments (Speakers and committes).
  • Official summit of the Prime Ministers (May/June 2004, Czech Republic);
  • Meeting of the Deputy Foreign Ministers - preparation for the official summit (spring 2004, Czech Republic);
  • Regular meetings of the national Visegrad coordinators (according to the schedule of the debate on the future of the V4);
  • Meeting of the national Visegrad coordinators with experts from Benelux and/or Nordic Council to exchange experiences of these regional groupings of the EU Member States;
  • Meetings of heads of the Departments responsible for International Development Assistance Policy and also in charge of EU Development Policy

EU issues

  • Special summit of Prime Ministers prior to the IGC (1 October 2003, Dobříš)
  • Consultations of state secretaries on positions concerning questions on the agenda of the IGC
  • Meeting of the directors of the territorial departments for Eastern Europe - theme: The RF, Ukraine, and BLR from the aspect of the V4 in the wake of the accession to the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia to the EU - especially as regards the Third Pillar - Justice & Home Affairs, perhaps also the CFSP (September/October 2003, Prague)
  • Expert seminar/conference of the V4 - Benelux on the CFSP/ESDP (approximately 25 - 27 November 2003, Prague)
  • Consultation, cooperation and where possible also coordination of positions concerning the important topics of foreign and security policies in the framework of CFSP/ESDP
  • Seminars of the V4 - Benelux on Schengen and on disaster management (follow-up to the autumn seminar on the CFSP/ESDP, spring 2004)
  • Meeting of the political directors of the Foreign Ministries of the V4 countries and the Nordic Council on the issues of a 'Wider Europe - New Neighbours Initiative' (the initiative of the political director of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs);
  • Seminars of the V4 - Nordic Council on Schengen and on communication between governments and parliaments on European affairs, including the prospects of ratifying the European Convention, and on preparations for the meeting of the European Council and the Nordic Council (autumn 2003, spring 2004);
  • Meeting of the Visegrad youth on the European Constitution and the future form of the EU (spring 2004 - April?);
  • Considering the possibility and opportunity of joint V4 presentation in Brussels to mark the occasion of accession to the EU, or the entering into effect of the European Convention (spring 2004);
  • Experts' or senior officials' meeting on the results of the IGC, on preparations for the ratification of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, the first elections to the EP (spring 2004) and perspectives of further enlargement of the EU;
  • Consultation and where possible coordination of approach to the future of the EU Cohesion Policy;
  • Consultation on the EU future financial perspective;
  • Consultation on the introduction of Euro;

Other issues

  • Informal meeting of the OECD co-ordinators of V4 countries to discuss and identify issues and areas of possibly strengthened V4 co-operation within the OECD - Autumn/Winter 2003;
  • Regular informal meetings of Permanent Representatives of V4 countries to the OECD;
  • Cooperation of Pernament Representatives of V4 Countries to other multilateral organisations (UN, Council of Europe, OSCE);
  • Consultation of directors of consular departments in Bratislava (second half of 2003) - harmonization of the visa policy with EU policy, modernization of the visa process, Schengen, interior ministry twinning projects, consular network development;
  • Consultation of the directors of analysis and planning departments MFA(Czech Republic,spring 2004);
  • Development of co-operation of V4 with other countries in the "V4+" format

ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION, REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Coordinators: Ministry of Economy; Ministry of Finance; Ministry for Regional Development
Consultation with partner ministries of V4 countries in the field of European integration, i.e. how this area is covered specifically at partner ministries, e.g. preparations for drawing on EU Funds, general preparations for accession (participation in working committees and groups, the agenda of the Lisbon Process, ministry communication strategy after accession to the EU, etc.).
Consultation with partner ministries of V4 countries on development of trade relationships between the Visegrad states.
Consultation on expert level concerning the SME sector in V4 countries.

Internal Market

  • Handling of Internal market as a new self contained regulatory category
  • Infrastructure to handle free movement of goods, establishment and services in the non harmonized area, training, results and specific cases encountered

Market surveillance

  • Conference of the representatives of control and supervisory authorities cooperating in the framework of the warning system TRAPEX (September 2003);
  • International Round Table on Product Safety (4th quarter of 2003);
  • Exchange of information on the methods of becoming involved in EU projects in favour of consumers (ECC network, EEJ-net);
  • Continuation of consultations concerning the approval and implementation of acquis communauautaire;

Energetics

  • Meeting of the V4 experts (Autumn 2003, Hungary);
  • Mutual exchange of information about energy policy and coordination of the energy policy of V4 states;
  • Mutual exchange of information, cooperation and coordination of the approach in the sphere of new EU energy legislation, especially rules for the formation of a common internal market in power and gas;
  • Mutual exchange of information on current issues of cross-border power exchange, power transit, tariff issues (CBT mechanism);
  • Cooperation and coordination of the approach in the sphere of Trans-European Energy Networks (TENs), concentrating on projects of common interest;
  • Mutual exchange of information on environmental issues, especially in connection with the operation of energy facilities, impact of the application of the relevant EU directives on the branch
  • Cooperation and consultation on the issues of transporting natural gas, safety of natural gas supplies and possible interconnection of V4 pipeline systems
  • Cooperation in the sphere of the strategic supply of oil, oil products, and natural gas;

Raw material policy

  • Approximation of mining legislation in connection with the accession of V4 countries to the EU;
  • Organization of state administration competent in the sphere of mineral use and strategic reserves;
  • Exchange of information regarding the use of raw material resources at national and regional level;
  • Instruments for higher use of waste as secondary raw materials and experience of support in this area for the accession of V4 countries to the EU;
  • Commodity exchanges in the countries of the Visegrad group and their functioning (including secondary materials);

Economic co-operation under coordination of Ministry of Finance

  • Regular meetings of the managing directors of the respective customs authorities, main agenda: pre-accession matters, cooperation in customs matters, and contact between customs laboratories")
  • Regular meetings of National Fund representatives from the finance ministries of V4 states; theme: exchange of experience among representatives of National Funds, which methodologically govern and manage the flows of EU financial aid for individual countries and ensure the observance of principles of reliable financial management.

Economy and Social Cohesion Area (under coordination of Ministry for Regional Development)

  • Exchange of information on preparation of the National Development Plan (NDP) and programming documents of the V4 countries;
  • Consultations on NDPs/CSFs of the V4 countries (negotiations with the EC);
  • Consultations and meetings of the managing authorities of each Programming Documents of the V4 countries;
  • Consultations and meetings of the paying authorities of the V4 countries;
  • Exchange of information on preparing and realization of monitoring system for EU Funds;
  • Consultations on the future of the EU Cohesion Policy;
  • Consultations about National information systems concerning the EU Funds

Tourism

  • Joint participation in travel fairs (IMTE Chicago, USA: 16.-18 September 2003; JATA Yokohama, Japan: 03-05 October 2003; ABAV Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 22-26 October 2003;CITM Kunming, China: 20-23 November 2003);
  • Joint web presentation - www.european-quartet.com (English version and other language versions at the end of 2003; 2004 - further development, expansion of booking possibilities) - definition of the functionality and structuring of the website; proposal for the design of the website; additions to, modifications to, and administration of the website;
  • Promotional brochure with map (deadline: 01 September 2003) - in the following languages: English, Portuguese, Japanese, and Chinese, proofreading and editing of texts and photographs, graphic design;
  • Promotional film (deadline: 15 July 2003) - filming + additional 10-minutes material about the Czech Republic, of which two minutes will be used in a joint film (shots include sights, UNESCO, historical towns, spas, castles, and chateaus)
  • Road shows - production of a road show schedule, 2/3-day road shows covering Shanghai, Beijing and Kunming
  • Study visits - drafting of a study tour programme; preparation and implementation of four study tours from target destinations covering the V4 countries, programme preparation, meetings with Czech tour operators, etc.
  • Exchange of marketing statistics - specification of the areas and methods for the exchange of marketing and statistical information;
  • Market research - definition of the scope and methods of market research, implementation of market research;
  • Seminar in Budapest for the Visegrad Countries about the "Effects of the Enlargement of the European Union on tourism"

Euroregions

  • Support for the establishment of the Council of the V4 Euroregions

CULTURAL, EDUCATIONAL AND SCIENTIFIC CO-OPERATION

Coordinators: Ministry of Culture; Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports;

Culture
  • 10th Meeting of Cultural Ministers, 13 - 14 November 2003 in Olomouc, format: V4+ (Slovenia invited), theme: 'Current issues of cooperation among the Visegrad Group countries after accession to the European Union' (+possibility of developing the common V4 logo);
  • Drafting of the Statute of the International Visegrad Prize (coordination: Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic) and its rendering (coordination: Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic);
  • Joint presentation of the culture of V4 countries in Brussels (29 September 2003, joint gala concert in Brussels to mark the upcoming accession to the EU) and in the European Cities of Culture announced by the European Commission;
  • Support for the preservation of cultural diversity, cultural identity, and the cultural traditions of each of the V4 countries as a means of protection against negative aspects of the commercialization and globalization of culture;
  • Support for the participation of cultural V4 ensembles at folk festival in Straznice 2004;

Education
  • Consultation of common issues concerning the problems of secondary and vocational education (in particular certification, final examinations, information and communication technology);
  • Consultations on possibilities for exchanges of secondary school students;
  • Consultation of common issues concerning the problems of special education (project EDS - Visegrad: Exchange of experiences and Development in Special Needs Education in the V4);
  • Consultation about specific questions of education of national and ethnic minorities, with special regard to Roma communities;
  • Consultation of common issues concerning evaluation of educational results, exchange of examples of "good practice";
  • Cooperation with the IVF in the implementation of the Visegrad scholarship programme;
  • Cooperation of the V4 countries in the scope of the CEEPUS programme;

Youth
  • Convening of a regional forum for young people, attended by government youth specialists from V4 countries. The aim of this forum will be to discuss issues of youth policy, the exchange of good examples, the development of cooperation in the framework of legislation, and the support of NGO activities;

Sports
  • Consultation and application of common opinions in the Council of Europe and the European Union in the area of V4 countries' sports policy;
  • Cooperation in the fight against doping: covering topical tasks and harmonization of opinions regarding the Council of Europe and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA; preparation of the UNESCO World Anti-Doping Conference;
  • 2nd working meeting of representatives responsible for agenda of the European Year of Education by Sports 2004 - EYES (27 - 28 August 2003, Olomouc);

Research and Development
  • Informal meeting of ministers responsible for research and development (30 - 31 October 2003, Krakow);
  • Forwarding of information and experience about the possibility of involving projects in the Sixth EU Framework Programme (expected workshop in Hungary, date not specified);
  • Creation of joint projects eligible to be supported by the IVF;

FAMILY AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS

Coordinator: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
  • Organization of a seminar on the free movement of persons (the Czech Republic, dates forthcoming);

ENVIRONMENTAL AND AGRICULTURE CO-OPERATION

Coordinator: Ministry of Environment; Ministry of Agriculture

Environment
  • 10th meeting of the environment ministers of V4 countries (Čejkovice, 2-3 October 2003). The meeting will be attended by the Georgian environment minister Ms Chkhobadze, who will present the 'Environmental strategy for the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia' and the opportunities for V4 cooperation in the scope of this strategy. The bulletin V4 Environmental Newsletter will be published to mark the meeting;
  • The 11th meeting of V4 ministers will take place in spring 2004 in Hungary;
  • The second year of joint activities by the environment ministries of the V4 countries and two Czech universities. The aim of the second year of the 'Visegrad seminar on development assistance and cooperation' (Olomouc, 3 - 5 September 2003) is to contribute to the process of transforming V4 countries from recipients to donors and to help in implementing international obligations in this area. The seminar proceedings are planned for publication in English;
  • The 'Visegrad seminar of young research and development workers in the field of sustainable development, international environmental relations, and the environmental economy' (Prague, 30 September - 1 October 2003) will be devoted to the issue of the environmental economy, environmental policy, and external relations of the Czech Republic and other Visegrad Group countries. The seminar papers will be used to publish the seminar proceedings in English.

Agriculture
  • Meeting of the agricultural ministers (within whe 18th International Agricultural Fair POLAGRA-FARM Poznań on 9-10 October 2003) - theme: discussion on the common agricultural policy (CAP);
  • Consultation on the regulation No. 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council on setting up Offices of Food Safety in the accessing states (13 October 2003);

CO-OPERATION IN JUSTICE AND HOME AFFAIRS

Coordinators: Ministry of Justice; Ministry of the Interior

Justice
  • Expert meeting on issues of international legal assistance in civil and criminal cases and on certain topical issues of criminal proceedings (Hungary, as the host, will set the date);
  • Meeting of the justice ministers of the V4 countries (28-30 October 2003, Mojmírovce, Slovakia) - discussion themes: the transformation of the judiciary, the duration and speed of judicial proceedings, the fight against corruption.

Home
affairs

Public administration
  • Joint meeting of all three V4 expert groups for public administration in Budapest, autumn 2003 (Group 1 - distribution of power between state administration and self-government, Group 2 - information systems in public administration, Group 3 - human resources management in public administration). The common theme of the meeting should be issues of the readiness and method of preparation of V4 member countries' public administration for accession to the EU.
  • Meeting of the state secretaries and deputy ministers responsible for public administration, in Bratislava (fourth quarter of 2003, November anticipated). At this meeting, the work by the expert groups in the previous period will be assessed and further directions for their activities in the next period (i.e. up to autumn 2004) will be set.
  • In 2004, the work of the expert groups will continue on the basis of target themes set by the above mentioned meeting of secretaries of state and deputy ministers in Bratislava.
  • The Czech Republic will prepare a meeting of secretaries of state and deputy ministers to be held in autumn 2004 in Prague.

Asylum and migration


Schengen issues

  • Meeting of interior ministers of V4 countries on Schengen issues (11 September 2003, Prague); Experts from the interior ministries and foreign ministries of the Visegrad Four who specialize in issues of implementing the Schengen acquis should carry out the following in particular:
    • Comparison of the effects of the accession to the European Union and for integration in Schengen cooperation,
    • Consultation of the Schengen Action Plans of the Visegrad Four in terms of their compatibility,
    • Assessment of existing or planned activities in the field of preparations for the implementation of the Schengen acquis,
    • Examination of the conditions for the joint submission of an application for the full implementation of the Schengen acquis (inspection of the fulfilment of plans, guarantees, exchange of documents),
    • Assessment of the opportunities for a coordinated approach at meetings in European Union bodies.
    • Developing co-operation of V4 countries in the field of Schengen issues - consideration of ways and means of establishing common V4 consular representations in third countries.
  • Consultation on "small cross-border traffic" issues (due to the EU Commission directive projects aimed at facilitating local cross-border movement of persons).

Application of the Dublin Convention
  • Expert meeting on the theme of V4 preparations for the application of the Dublin Convention after 1 May 2004.

Dialogue between V4 + Ukraine
  • Thematically focused expert meeting at the level of the competent authorities of the V4+Ukraine; themes - legal and illegal migration, working migration, asylum, protection of state borders, visa issues.

Security policy
  • 3rd meeting of the working group of V4 countries and Austria for the fight against extremism (23 - 27 February 2004 in Prague) - expanded talks, Germany will be invited and will be offered the position of permanent guest of the working group, and the representatives of states admitted to NATO at the Prague Summit in November 2002 will also be invited.

Border protection
  • Meeting of the leading representatives of border protection. (autumn 2003, Budapest) - themes (with consideration for EU activities): exchange of information from the sphere of border protection, asylum and migration, creation of a more flexible migration policy, prevention of organized cross-border criminal activity.

Civil protection
  • Exchange of experience regarding the principles of international assistance in disasters, the preparation, equipping, intervention, and controlling methods of the teams participating;
  • Cooperation in the field of the uniform application of SEVESO II, exchange of information on experience from joint implementation;
  • Improvement and harmonization of the readiness of civil defence by means of data exchange;
  • Exchange of experience regarding the preparation of the population, exchange of information materials;
  • Further development of regional cooperation of V4 + 2 countries (Austria, Slovenia) among local administration authorities and self-government along the borders;
  • Joint invitations to seminars, conferences, workshops;
  • Annual meeting of high representatives and experts in civil protection;

DEFENCE ISSUES


Coordinator: Ministry of Defence
  • Exploit the opportunities of cooperation in the fulfilment of obligations adopted in the framework of the Prague Capabilities Commitment. This should facilitate solutions for the individual commitments of Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic by means of reinforced regional cooperation and should help Slovakia formulate its goals in the sphere of building up defence capabilities in connection with its forthcoming admittance to NATO,
  • In the area of military technology, focus on long-term realistic and prospective plans and projects, elaborated with participation of the V4 experts of arms industry,
  • In the scope of the joint project for the modernization of the Mi-24 helicopter, continue a looser, more flexible form of cooperation based on the implementation of a prototype in the national conditions of the individual countries and on mutually beneficial cooperation under bilateral agreements in sub-areas of modernization.
  • Security consultation on important topical issues, as appropriate, and the mutual exchange of experience related to the reform of military forces in V4 states;
  • Informal expert conference of the high ranking level representatives of the Foreign Ministries and the Defense Ministries of V4 countries focused on security policy issues (organized by the MFA of the Slovak Republic spring 2004);
  • Meeting of defense ministers (probably in November 2003, in the Czech Republic);
  • Meetings of national directors for the arming of V4 states will continue on an ongoing basis;
  • Support to Ukraine's implementation of the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan and on the issue of strengthening Ukraine's relations with Trans-Atlantic community.

CO-OPERATION IN TRANSPORT, TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATICS

Coordinators: Ministry of Transport; Ministry of Informatics

Transport
  • Continuation of the work of the expert group for combined transport, areas of cooperation: an increase in the competitiveness of combined transport, harmonization of the costs for the use of a transport route; joint combined transport projects; preparation of a joint strategy for the development of combined transport after accession to the EU and the opportunities of mutual cooperation; unification of statistics concerning combine transport;
  • Preparation for the formation of an expert group to coordinate the process for charging transport infrastructure fees in accordance with EU legislation under preparation (first meeting anticipated in autumn 2003 in Bratislava);
  • Consultation on the posibilities of elaborating of the framework of the V4 transport policy and setting up the Central European Open Forum on Transport.

Telecommunications and Informatics
  • Regular expert meetings V4+ (the next meeting will take place in Prague on September 2003) Main issues: telecommunications; information society; process of preparation for the accession to the EU focusing on the legal background of the sector (Communication Act and/or other laws); regulation/status of regulatory body; tools for increasing internet penetration; building up broadband network; interconnection fees; universal services;
  • ICT Ministers´ meeting in the framework of V4+ (Autumn 2003, early 2004, Hungary).

INTERNATIONAL VISEGRAD FUND
  • Assistance to the current Hungarian Presidency of the IVF with all necessary steps in screening the EU conformity of the Fund and analyzing probable changes of the Status and other documents of the IVF;
  • Preparation and launch of in-coming scholarships in the framework of Visegrad Scholarship Program.

COOPERATION IN OTHER AREAS
Health issues
  • 3rd Meeting of Ministers of Health of V4, Austria, Slovenia and Ukraine on "Public Health Issues", 29-31 October 2003, Levoča (Slovakia).

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