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2007/2008 Czech Presidency



 
 
Czech Presidency of the Visegrad Group
(June 2007 - June 2008)


CONTENTS:
 
 
1. Introduction
 
2. Summary of the Objectives of the Czech Presidency of the Visegrad Group
 
3. Summits Planned during the Czech Presidency of the V4
 
4. Main Priorities of the Czech Presidency
4.1 Streamlining the V4 Countries' Cooperation Mechanism within the EU
4.2 V4 Communication and Information Strategy
4.3 Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in the World
4.4 International Visegrad Fund
 
5. European Union
5.1 EU Reform Process
5.2 Priorities of Presidencies of the Council of the European Union
5.3 Internal Market Liberalisation and Free Movement of Labour
5.4 Support for Integration Process in Eastern and South-East Europe
5.5 EU Enlargement
 
6. Foreign Policy Issues
6.1 V4+ Cooperation
6.2 Coalition for Visa Equality
6.3 Focus on relevant political issues
6.4 CoE Chairman Priorities
 
7. Other Sectoral Policies of the Visegrad Group
7.1 Interior
7.2 Transport
7.3 Culture
7.4 Industry and Trade
7.5 Environment
7.6 Education, Youth and Sports
7.7 Finance
7.8 Labour and Social Affairs
7.9 Regional Policy
7.10 Agriculture
7.11 Defence



1. INTRODUCTION
 
The Czech Presidency of the Visegrad Group from June 2007 to June 2008 will run parallel to the Portuguese and Slovenian Presidencies of the Council of the European Union (the second half of 2007 and the first half of 2008 respectively). The programme will reflect the priorities of these Presidencies while ensuring continuity with items on the agenda of Slovakia's V4 Presidency, which will be developed further. The programme will draw on the constituent documents signed in 1991 in Visegrad, in 1999 in Bratislava and in 2002 in Esztergom, as well as on the Kroměříž Declaration of the V4 Prime Ministers and this Declaration's individual Cooperation Guidelines (May 2004, available at www.visegradgroup.eu).
 
The Visegrad Group now finds itself in one of the most intensive periods of cooperation, characterized in particular by the principles of voluntariness, responsibility and solidarity. Over its existence the format of the Visegrad Group has become a natural part of regional policy in Central Europe, and in the past two years the Visegrad countries' European Union membership has seen EU affairs become a natural part of the consulting process within the V4 format. The Visegrad Group has reached a consensus in several significant areas of EU policy, such as the preparations for the Financial Perspectives (2007 - 2013), freedom of movement for workers, and the Services Directive; through its activities - such as its involvement in the expansion of the Schengen Area - it has helped equalize relations among countries in the EU and thus enhance the EU's prestige in its own countries and in general. By means of its grant and scholarship schemes, the International Visegrad Fund contributes not only to the further knitting of the civic basis in the V4 countries, but also promotes processes of democratization, transformation and integration in other countries.
 
Besides fostering a constructive V4 stance within the EU and cultivating further support for the V4's civic initiatives and the programmes of the International Visegrad Fund, the programme of the Czech Presidency of the V4 aims to raise broader awareness of the Visegrad Group's activities in its own member states and in other countries, to make the V4 countries' mechanism of mutual cooperation - on which increasing demands are being placed - more transparent and clear-cut, to maintain the group's trend of openness towards other entities, and to enhance efficiency in all areas of cooperation.


2. SUMMARY OF THE OBJECTIVES OF THE CZECH PRESIDENCY OF THE VISEGRAD GROUP

  • Further development of regional cooperation among V4 countries;
  • Improved transparency and stabilization of the mechanism of mutual cooperation among V4 countries;
  • More efficient cooperation among V4 countries within the EU;
  • Drawing the EU closer to the citizens of V4 countries;
  • Openness towards cooperation in V4+ formats;
  • Support of and cooperation with regions neighbouring the area of V4 countries;
  • Promotion of democracy and respect for human rights on global scale;
  • Further development of the Visegrad Group's communication and information strategy;
  • Cooperation with civic initiatives in V4 countries and coordination of opportunities offered by the International Visegrad Fund with their activities;
  • Deeper cooperation in the field of the Visegrad Group's sectoral policies (foreign policy, internal security, transport, culture, industry and trade, the environment, education, youth and sports, finance, labour and social affairs, regional policy, tourism, agriculture and defence).


3. SUMMITS PLANNED DURING THE CZECH PRESIDENCY OF THE V4

  • Presidents
    at least 1 meeting, 20 - 21 September 2007, Hungary
  • Prime Ministers
    at least 2 meetings: an informal meeting prior to the European Council in December 2007, an official summit in June 2008 - the handover of the V4 presidency to Poland
  • Presidents of the Parliaments of V4 Countries
    at least 1 meeting
  • Foreign Ministers
    at least 3 meetings
  • Ministers or Vice-Prime Ministers of the Governments responsible for EU affairs
    at least 1 meeting
  • Departmental Ministers of the Governments of the V4 Countries
    as required by the relevant ministries
  • Foreign Ministries: State Secretaries and Political Directors
    according to the mechanism defined in the Kroměříž Declaration's Individual Cooperation Guidelines and, further on, as circumstances and needs dictate, based on the current international situation
  • Expert Consultations
    on topical matters, especially directors of the relevant departments of the foreign ministry dealing with EU affairs, security policy, the V4 Eastern and southeast Europe policy, and cooperation in V4+ formats,
    experts in EU affairs to consult on current themes before meetings of the European Union's institutions
  • V4 Coordinators
    regular monthly meetings rotating in the V4 countries


4. MAIN PRIORITIES OF THE CZECH PRESIDENCY

4.1 Improved transparency and stabilization of the mechanism of mutual cooperation among V4 countries
 
Given the large rise in the number of V4 and V4+ meetings at official and working level, we consider one of the Czech Presidency's tasks to be the streamlining and improving the transparency of the mechanism applied for the purposes of cooperation and the organization of meetings in these formats and other mutual discussions. The creation of a clearly organized mechanism would centre on the following areas:
  • stabilizing the mechanism for the organization of V4 meetings on the margin of multilateral projects and actions;
  • establishing a mechanism for the organization of V4 summits and V4+ meetings;
  • coordinating and registering interdepartmental cooperation;
  • ad hoc consulting of topical political affairs at working level;
  • cooperation between the country holding the V4 Presidency and the V4 public relations coordinator, including the production of a mechanism for this cooperation;
  • further development of the mechanism of mutual support in acquiring headquarters of agencies of the European Union and of international bodies and in their staffing.

4.2 Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in the World
 
The V4 countries, by dint of their recent historical experience and current set of values, are committed to promoting democracy and human rights throughout the world. As they seek to implement this goal, they will cooperate with other countries, international organizations and the nongovernmental sector. With this in mind, during the Czech Presidency expert and political consultations will be initiated and specific projects in this field will be supported.
 
4.3 V4 Communication and Information Strategy
 
The Czech Presidency will also focus on raising public awareness - in V4 countries and beyond this region - as regards the specific tasks of Visegrad cooperation, and on streamlining the exchange of information within the Visegrad Group. This objective will be specifically fulfilled by the maximum possible cooperation of the Presidency with the V4 public relations coordinator at the IVF in Bratislava, via the setting of public relations priorities, and through ordinary communication channels in place within the V4. An efficiently running external communication policy should boost information exchanges and the presentation of the V4 in selected regions where the Visegrad countries share common interests. The priorities of the communication strategy will include the enhanced presentation of IVF-backed projects, especially strategic projects.
 
4.4 International Visegrad Fund

IVF programmes help reinforce mutual ties between citizens in V4 member states and are consistent with the priorities of the Visegrad Group's foreign policy. The Czech Presidency of the V4 will promote the realization and emergence of new IVF programmes now that budget resources have increased to € 5 million a year. In this context, the Czech Presidency will explore the possibilities to support agreed intergovernmental cooperation projects through the IVF. The IVF's activities will reflect the different areas and priorities of the Czech Presidency's programme.
 
 
5. EUROPEAN UNION

5.1 EU Reform Process
 
During the Czech presidency, the Visegrad Group will actively embrace current issues of European integration, especially in relation to the EU reform process. With reference to the debate on the EU's new institutional framework, the V4 member countries will consult their opinions with each other so that they can contribute to a solution that will respect the interests of all EU Member States. The reform process should culminate in the more efficient performance of the EU, which will respond better to the everyday needs of its citizens.
 
5.2 Priorities of Presidencies of the Council of the European Union
 
The Czech Presidency will take into account the priorities of the Portuguese and Slovenian Presidencies of the Council of the EU, which should include further discussions on the future of Europe, discussions on the new institutional framework of Europe, the further enlargement of the EU and deeper regional cooperation, the development of the Stabilization and Association Process for countries in the Western Balkans, strengthening of the European Neighbourhood Policy, energy security issues, the consolidation of transatlantic relations, the reinforcement of trade relations, cross-cultural dialogue, competitiveness in the fields of the internal market, research and education, the information society, environmental protection and cooperation with other regions and international organizations.
 
5.3 Internal Market Liberalisation and Free Movement of Labour
 
Within the EU, the Visegrad Group will seek further liberalization of the internal market in connection with the four fundamental freedoms. One of the priorities of V4 countries in relation to the European Union is the coordination of efforts to bring an end to transitional periods impeding the free movement of workers from new EU Member States.

5.4 Support for Integration Process in Eastern and South-East Europe
 
A specific area of V4 foreign policy activity are countries in east and southeast Europe. V4 will develop its activities in full accordance with principles of the ENP. During the Czech Presidency, the V4 will promote activities that support the integration and pro-European orientation of these countries within the scope of the CFSP and all EU formats. The Czech Presidency will follow up on the priorities of the Slovak Presidency - continue the special programme of liaison with Ukraine, launched in 2005, first steps in closer cooperation with Moldova in 2007, on the support of the democratization process in Belarus as a priority from 2006. Encouragement and assistance with the ongoing reform agenda in the South Caucasus countries will be also a priority.

5.5 EU Enlargement
 
V4 countries are in favour of opening the European perspective for all the countries able to meeting the "Copenhagen criteria". The Visegrad Group is convinced that EU enlargement is a process that will make Europe more stable and give it extra clout in the world, and therefore the process should further be open. V4 states will provide candidate and potential candidate countries with political support and technical assistance in the form of the know-how they have gained from their own experience of the transformation and accession process.
 
 
6. FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES

6.1 V4+ Cooperation
 
The Czech Presidency will strive to reinforce the existing forms of V4+ cooperation and establish new contacts where there are finely honed notions of what is to be achieved. The V4 countries currently cooperate in particular in the format of the Regional Partnership (V4 countries, Austria, Slovenia), in V4+ format with the Benelux countries, the Nordic Council, the Baltic States, Ukraine, Moldova, Japan. It is exploring possible areas of cooperation with GUAM countries.
The Czech V4 Presidency would like to involve third subjects in V4 foreign policy activities oriented at the development assistance to transforming regions in its neighbourhood, aimed at: regional stabilization, addressing open issues, helping to develop "regional ownership" in the regions, assisting the regions in the efforts to get closer to the Euro-Atlantic structures and channelling economic assistance into the mentioned regions. This would include for example cooperation with Germany in the initiatives towards Eastern European countries; further assistance to Western Balkan states in the format of Regional Partnership; or cooperation with Japan towards South Caucasus countries.


6.2
Coalition for Visa Equality
 
The Visegrad Group countries will strive to achieve success in their negotiations with the USA, based on the platform of the "Coalition for Visa Equality". The goal of this platform is to remove the "visa asymmetry" and reach visa-free travel to the USA.
Similarly, the V4 countries will remain engaged in talks with Canada with the same goal of reaching reciprocal, i.e. visa-free travel to Canada. These negotiations with the Canadian administration will be based on the EU-platform.
On top of this "coalition approach", each country of the Visegrad Group will remain engaged in their own, bilateral discussions with the USA, and Canada, respectively, with the aim of achieving visa reciprocity.
 
6.3 Focus on relevant political issues
 
The Visegrad Group will continuously focus on relevant current political issues such as Schengen cooperation, energy security or further development of a mechanism of mutual support and coordination in acquiring headquarters of the European Union and international bodies including nomination of key personnel for these bodies. Taking into account current situation the V4 will develop regional cooperation in these fields.
 
6.4 CoE Chairmanship Priorities
 
The Czech Presidency will take into account the priorities of the Slovak Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which shall include particularly support and promotion of the active civil society; coordination of the cooperation with the other organisations, particularly OSCE, UN and EU; support to the permanent efficiency of the European Convention on Human Rights; support and promotion of the common values - democracy, good governance and rule of law, including use of the CoE positive tools and programmes; the fight against all forms of hatred, against discrimination, racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, extreme nationalism and chauvinism, and for the promotion of the truth about the Holocaust.

7. OTHER SECTORAL POLICIES OF THE VISEGRAD GROUP

7.1 Interior

Schengen issues
 
The key priority of the Czech Presidency of the V4 in the field of the judiciary and the interior will be the finalization of preparations to enter the Schengen area and the discontinuance of checks at internal borders.

Activities connected with the implementation of the long-running strategy of joint entry to the Schengen area for all V4 countries will take place primarily in two forums: meetings of interior ministers and the operations of the V4 working party for Schengen cooperation.
 
 Asylum and immigration
 
Another topic that will be discussed by the V4 is the conflict between the application of Dublin II and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The negotiations of V4 representatives should centre on the new dimension of the application of the Dublin system in V4 states and subsequent cooperation in dealing with complaints presented to the European Court of Human Rights concerning transfers carried out as part of the application of the Dublin II Regulation.
 
Security
 
In terms of security, the Czech Presidency of the V4 will concentrate on the following basic themes and activities:
  • potentially closed ethnic and religious communities and the risk of their radicalization;
  • the implementation of a publicity campaign designed to stem trafficking in persons in source countries common to the V4.
Other areas that the Czech Presidency will focus on include further activities by the Working Group of the V4 Countries and Austria Working Group for Combating Extremism, the exchange of 'good examples' in the fight against the cybernetic threat (exchanges of information between V4 countries as they address various situations in this field, discussions on the benefits of setting up specialized centres to deal with cybernetic threats in the individual V4 countries), and expert liaison with officials specializing in crisis management.
 
Police cooperation
 
In the field of police cooperation, the Czech Presidency will try to reinforce the Visegrad countries' mutual relations and contacts in the area of international cooperation, both in the field of legal assistance in criminal proceedings and in the exchange of police information.

The Czech Presidency will place a great emphasis on enhancing the involvement of the police in environmental issues (exchanges for police experts on environmental issues, establishing contact with a view to subsequent exchanges of police information, attendance at seminars and events on the environment).

 
Fire and civil protection
 
Under the Czech Presidency, cooperation will continue between managing authorities in the fields of fire protection, protection of the public and civil-emergency planning in V4 countries.

In the second half of 2007 and, if necessary, in the first half of 2008, the Fire Service Directorate in the Czech Republic will host a conference of fire and civil protection representatives from V4 countries to discuss topics related to mutual cooperation and the relevant forms and methods.
 
Public administration
 
During the Czech Presidency, there will be significant changes in V4 cooperation in the field of public administration. The first substantial change is that, in a break from tradition, activities related to public administration will now be aligned with the presidency. This development will enter into force as of 1 July 2007, i.e. as of the Czech Presidency. Another significant change is the dismantling of the standing working parties. This move was prompted by the fact that their focus had become too rigid; V4 states are faced with numerous challenges in public administration, which it would be more advisable to tackle with flexibility.
 
7.2 Transport
 
The Czech Presidency's transport priorities will include:
  • cooperation in the development of rail transport, in particular high-speed travel, concerted efforts to link up the railway networks of EU's old and new Member States;
  • the passing-on of experience gained in addressing public transport issues, including municipal and regional rail transport systems (special attention will be paid to experience in the harmonization of conditions on the transport market);
  • consulting on the liberalization of international, and where appropriate, national rail transport;
  • the transfer of experience of the legislative process related to public transport;
  • consulting on public transport steps to be implemented by the new Community legal framework in this field, i.e. the Council Regulation on public passenger transport services by rail and road, and the communication of experience related to the application of this regulation, especially as regards the introduction of competition into public transport.
Other themes:
  • support will be given to the activities of the working party for rail transport by V4 transport ministers (its main objectives are the coordination of infrastructure construction, the interoperability of rail infrastructure and operations, cooperation within the Commission's committee on interoperability and safety, common action by ministers within the Council);
  • the resumption of the working party for combined transport, the main aim of which would be common support of combined transport and the search for ways to dismantle obstructions impeding combined-transport trains' movement over the territory of V4 countries;
  • the search for opportunities for coordinated financial assistance, and consulting on attitudes towards the European Commission's Galileo Green Paper;
  • discussion on a possible cooperation in the area of interoperability of tolling systems.
The Visegrad Group's efforts in the transport sector will focus on cooperation with other countries in the Central European region, such as Austria.
 
7.3 Culture
 
During the Czech Presidency of the Visegrad Group, there are plans for two meetings of culture ministers. The 17th meeting will take place in Slovakia in October 2007, and the 18th meeting will be held in the Czech Republic in the first half of 2008. These meetings will be preceded by working discussions drawing together the directors of the culture ministries' foreign departments and experts in the cultural aspects of the Visegrad Group.
During the Czech Presidency of the Visegrad Group, as a matter of priority cultural cooperation will concentrate on:
  • the continuing implementation of specific cultural projects -short-term projects such as the Visegrad Anthology of Writers and long-term projects, in particular the Visegrad Library;
  • the continuing award of the International Visegrad Prize for exceptional contributions to the development of cultural cooperation in the Visegrad countries;
  • the continuation of close cooperation with the International Visegrad Fund within the scope of its programmes for the development of culture in Visegrad countries (e.g. the Programme of Artistic Internships) and its support of specific cultural projects;
  • the continuation of specialized discussions between expert teams from the relevant cultural ministries in fields of common interest, such as literature, libraries and cultural heritage;
  • the continuation of support for joint cultural projects realized as part of the Culture 2007 Community programme;
  • the continuation of debates on themes linked to the Year of Intercultural Dialogue in 2008;
  • the promotion of the broad exchange of views concerning the importance of the economy in culture.

7.4 Industry and Trade
 
The Czech Presidency will focus on energy sector as a significant area of economic cooperation among countries in the Central European region with economic as well as still increasing security implications. In this regard the Czech Presidency will initiate meetings at appropriate expert as well as political level.

The Czech Presidency's energy priorities will be electricity and heating, nuclear energy, oil and liquid fuels, gas and cooperation in the field of renewable energy sources.
 
The Visegrad Group countries are aware how significant their close cooperation is in effectively meeting the goals of the Lisbon Strategy. In the field of economical policy during the Czech Presidency considers the following measures to have the highest priority:
  • introduce a transparent process for assessments of the impact of new legislation;
  • reduce the administrative burden on entrepreneurs and small traders/businesses;
  • simplify administrative procedures for setting up and developing companies;
  • simplify business start-up, especially for businesses which do not have special qualification requirements;
  • reinforce the role of creditors in the insolvency process;
  • develop the innovation infrastructure;
  • improve the access that innovative firms have to credit facilities.

Regional, subregional and sectoral cooperation
 
The Czech Presidency's main plans in this area are:
  • to promote all forms of economic, trade, and industrial cooperation between the regions and subregions of V4 countries;
  • to cooperate in the use of financial resources from the EU's Structural Funds, especially in border areas;
  • to promote cooperation between professional industrial associations in the Visegrad Four, Bulgaria and Romania; and to hold mutual consultations aimed at exchanging experience on the drawing on EU funds by mechanical-engineering and metal-working enterprises, and in particular by SMEs;
  • we consider WTO/DDA to be an important theme: during the Czech Presidency, the Visegrad countries will exchange their views on this subject and assess the possibility of mutual coordination;
  • we will also examine the possibility of coordinating opinions and mutual support regarding suspension of customs duties for selected production inputs;
  • attention will focus on cooperation in setting up a coordination centre in Central and Eastern Europe to organize coordinated auctions of cross-border capacities, Coordinated Capacity Forecast = Flow Based Allocation, and the coordinated development of transmission capacities; negotiations will focus on the possibility of constructing a strategic reservoir of gas in the V4 country which proves to have the best geological conditions for this purpose, and on the possibility of setting up a connection between the LNG terminal being planned in Croatia and the gas networks of V4 countries.

7.5 Environment
 
The environmental cooperation of Visegrad Group countries is intensive and continuous. The Czech Presidency is keen to continue this trend.
 
On 24-25 May 2007, the annual ministerial meeting will be held in Prague. Under the Czech Presidency, environmental cooperation will focus on the following areas:
  • joint opinions and the promotion of common interests in the EU, the EEA and at the international level;
  • support of an increase in the number of environmental projects financed from the International Visegrad Fund;
  • continued cooperation in the field of waste (directive on wastes);
  • the implementation of INSPIRE, work on the development of SEIS;
  • cooperation in the field of climate change (implementation of NAP II), and in this respect also in the field of energy, e.g. energy efficiency, renewable energy sources;
  • the exchange of experience gained from the implementation of IPPC (the first phase of the presidency);
  • cooperation in the protection of soil and the use of pesticides;
  • the exchange of experience gained from the implementation of the Community directive on liability for environmental damage;
  • implementation of the Carpathian Convention in Visegrad Group countries;
  • enhanced cooperation for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive;
  • development of coordinated on the further development of GMO-related (genetically modified organism) EU procedures, on testing and release of GMO-s into the environment;
  • cooperation on questions of transboundary pollution (e.g. priority substances).

7.6 Education, Youth and Sports
 
A major priority of the Czech Presidency will be cooperation in the field of education. Its activities will centre on:
  • cooperation in the field of lifelong learning and further education;
  • the exchange of information about priorities promoted in the education of national minorities, with a stress on the education of the Roma;
  • history teaching with consideration for Recommendation of the Council of Europe (2001)15 on history teaching in twenty-first-century Europe;
  • cooperation between secondary schools in language teaching;
  • cooperation in the field of special-needs education, including the conclusion of contractual documents under which it will be possible to arrange exchanges and training for teachers and pupils with special educational needs and cooperation on further development of national conceptions on educating children with special educational needs;
  • the promotion of scholarship schemes for primary and secondary school teachers, with the possibility of short-term and long-term study placements at schools in V4 countries;
  • cooperation in the evaluation of secondary education in particular;
  • the promotion of scholarship schemes financed by the International Visegrad Fund;
  • cooperation in the field of counteracting the violence and aggression at school.
Besides this main priority, attention will also focus on the following areas:
  • science, research, technology (the continuation of cooperation within the scope of joint basic and applied research projects, meetings of joint commissions in the period from October 2007 to December 2007 - Prague, Budapest, Warsaw);
  • sports and physical education (a competition covering 24 official sports and 11 show sports - 'Olympic Hopes' of the Visegrad Group countries in accordance with the protocol concluded for 2007);
  • youth (the organization of a workshop of V4 countries to interconnect conceptual goals and current responsibilities in work with children and young people).

7.7
Finance
 
In the financial sector the Czech Presidency´s focus will be on issues related to the review of the EU budget, having in mind that this topic is likely to be one of the priorities of the Czech Republic's presidency of the European Council. A solid understanding of EU Member States´s positions is a prerequisite for the successful launch of discussions on budget review at European level. The Czech Presidency of the V4 is therefore a timely opportunity for the Czech Republic to become acquainted with the views of the V4 member states regarding individual aspects of the review before the publication of the White Paper (2008/2009) formally initiating the review. Thus during the Czech Presidency of the V4 several expert consultations at various levels will be arranged to discuss the EU budget.

Apart from that, all V4 countries have been preparing in accordance with the Act of Accession their entry into the Euro zone. In this respect, they are required to meet the Maastricht convergence criteria. Given the process leading the V4 countries to meeting these criteria and in view of regular convergence reports prepared by the European Commission and the European Central Bank, the Czech Presidency finds it necessary to exchange information in areas such as real and nominal convergence, fiscal consolidation and institutional aspects of preparations for the introduction of the euro. In this respect, and in the interest of improving preparedness to assume common opinions within the EU, expert and ministerial consultations will be initiated on the theme of the single currency.

Appropriate attention during the Czech Presidency will also be paid to tax administration and the EEA/Norwegian financial mechanism and the Swiss financial mechanism.

The Czech Presidency also considers the idea of holding an expert meeting to discuss the renegotiation of Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs) concluded with third countries, with regard to the accession of V4 countries to the EU and the termination of IPPAs concluded with EU Member States.
 
Customs
 
The main themes in this area are:
  • E-customs;
  • improved quality of service provided by customs authorities to the business community;
  • the protection of intellectual property rights;
  • the transportation of selected products among member states;
  • denaturants for the denaturation of alcohol;
  • the fight against terrorism - especially mutual cooperation among the competent authorities in connection with the anticipated entry to the Schengen area;
  • risk analysis;
  • cooperation and exchange of experiences in the field of ex-post control (audit) and pre-control (pre-audit);
  • development of exchange of customs information.

There are plans to hold several multi-day seminars and workshops on the themes above for national experts. The purpose of these events will be to encourage the further exchange of information and experience between individual V4 member states in the field of international customs proceedings, more dynamic cooperation and consultations, the result of which will be the formulation of a common position and mutual opinions of all V4 members.
 
7.8 Labour and Social Affairs
 
During the Czech Presidency, a coordination and consultation mechanism will also be in place for labour and social affairs. It will focus on:
  • the exchange of experience in the employment of foreign nationals from third countries, with a stress on their illegal employment;
  • the exchange of experience in the application of EU/Community legislation in the field of social and benefit systems, especially the coordination of family allowances;
  • the exchange of experience gained from applying the European Union's social security law (including the issue of EU officials) among the ministries and bearers of insurance in V4 countries;
  • the exchange of experience concerning the misuse of social benefit systems by migrants;
  • the exchange of experience between V4 states regarding the collection and recovery of social insurance contributions, health insurance contributions and tax;
  • the possibility of integrating various levels or types in the collection and recovery of contributions and taxes;
  • a comparison of the successfulness of collection of insurance contributions in V4 countries.

Attention will also be paid to:
  • how to handle the social security of asylum seekers;
  • the exchange of experience related to the control system and its coordination between individual public administration authorities;
  • cooperation and the exchange of experience regarding the medical assessment service:
    • the organization of the medical assessment service,
    • the system of the education of the doctors of the medical assessment service and their continuous training, motivation and financial remuneration,
    • the monitoring of the efficiency of the work of the doctors of the medical assessment service and the evaluation of the quality and quantity of their work including the control of their performance between state institutions (ministries), organizations managing the medical assessment service, and organizations drawing together doctors in the medical assessment service of the social security;
  • common and differing criteria in assessments of the state of health of citizens with regard to disability status, and the related coverage of the special needs of disabled persons, such as their mobility, aids and work rehabilitation, including issues related to the social inclusion of these persons;
  • the assessment of temporary work incapacity and its impacts on the social system;
  • the impact of population ageing on disabilities, in relation to healthcare and social spending and changes in the provision of social services in V4 countries.

In the field of labour and social affairs, one of the priorities of V4 countries in relation to the European Union is the coordination of efforts to bring an end to transitional periods impeding the free movement of workers from new EU Member States.
 
7.9 Regional Policy
 
In the field of regional and structural policy, the Czech Presidency of the Visegrad Group will continue the previous intensive cooperation and achievements recorded in this sphere by the V4. There will continue to be regular meetings of the working party for regional and structural policy, which along with the working party for housing policy will take over the agenda put into motion by the Slovak Presidency; the primary focus will be on the following areas and themes:
  • the exchange of experience in the field of regional policy, with a stress on housing policy, urban development, urban renewal and land development;
  • the exchange of the experience related to existing or planned national legislation concerning regional development, and identification of the paths of sustainable development in the V4 region;
  • common problems in the implementation of operational programmes in the current period (the final stages of the 2004-2006 period);
  • the exchange of experience regarding the preparation of management, control and monitoring mechanisms in the field of economic and social cohesion for the next programming period (2007-2013);
  • matters concerning the national coordination of 2007-2013 operational programmes;
  • issues and the handling of problems in the field of territorial cooperation;
  • common problems regarding the eligibility of housing in the 2007-2013 period and the related selection criteria for projects;
  • a debate of current EU documents concerning the policy on economic and social cohesion (e.g. the Cohesion Report, Lisbon Programmes, etc.) and the production of potential joint opinions;
  • a meeting of V4 ministers responsible for regional development to discuss current problems and themes related to the policy on economic and social cohesion;
  • efforts to integrate Romania, Bulgaria and other states in the activities of the working party and the ministerial meetings;
  • the meetings of this working party will take place approximately four times a year.
Another topic for discussion should be Regulation (EC) No. 1082/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of the 5 July 2006 on a European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC). Attention should be paid to the following questions:
  • the progress achieved in this area;
  • the need to draft a separate law, or to amend the existing laws, in order to implement the Regulation in V4 countries;
Tourism
 
Cooperation in the field of tourism will follow up on the priorities of the Slovak Presidency. V4 countries are committed to continue the cooperation both in tourism diplomacy and tourism promotion, in the spirit of 'European Quartet - One Melody'; the pooling of knowledge, experience and financial resources will also continue with a view to the better, joint promotion of tourism, especially in relation to overseas markets.
 
 
7.10 Agriculture
 
During the Czech Presidency of the Visegrad Group, attention will be paid to the following areas in particular:
  • reform of the common agricultural policy of the EU - there are plans to hold V4 consultations to discuss the contentious issues with the aim of reaching a common position on the revision of the common agricultural policy;
  • cooperation in the implementation of the adopted EU action plan for forestry, the promotion of the interests and visions of V4 countries in dealing with individual items of the action plan;
  • consultations on the theme of the joint assessment of food-related health risks within the EU in accordance with the requirements of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA);
  • discussions on the possibilities of a further extension to the application of a European grant within the scope of the single area payment (SAPS) after 2010, or the introduction of a system of SAPS aid as a model for the support of the EU's agricultural sector on a permanent basis;
  • rural development - mutual exchange of experience and cooperation in the new programming period 2007-2013. Exchange of information and search for common positions on issues related to the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
  • cross-compliance - exchange of information and consultations on implementing cross-compliance, search for common positions where appropriate.
7.11 Defence
 
During the Czech Presidency, there are plans to organize a meeting at the level of defence ministers, chiefs of staff, defence policy directors, personnel directors and directors of the armament sections of the V4 states. Cooperation in the field of defence will focus, as a matter of priority, on the following areas:
  • the continued fulfilment of the goals set by the Slovak Presidency;
  • the continuation of the tradition of inviting top representatives of the Ukraine defence ministry to meetings of the defence ministries and chiefs of staff of V4 countries;
  • practical support for the reform and integration efforts of Ukrainian armed forces;
  • the continuation of close cooperation in the exchange of experience gained from the deployment of forces in foreign operations, the reform of the armed forces and modernization of materials and technology based on experience from international missions;
  • further discussions on the possibility of creating a joint V4 Battle Group.

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