In the early 1990s, after the historical changes and the fall of the Iron Curtain, the countries of Central Europe - Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland - were faced with the emergence of another enormous task: To integrate our young democracies into European and transatlantic structures.
At that time, we embraced the Euro-American notion of democracy with two basic aims in mind: To strengthen our own democracies and to render impossible any return to totalitarianism. It was clear that we couldn't achieve such ambitious goals if our three countries were to compete with each other on the international stage. On the contrary, we could only reach our aims through close cooperation. We had to convince our western colleagues that we were willing and able to participate in broader forms of cooperation, on both the European and the trans-Atlantic levels.
That is why, at a meeting in Visegrad, we agreed on the foundations of a common approach, which in the following years we developed and deepened. From the first steps, which were more of a declaratory than a demonstrative nature, our countries developed modes of cooperation that were very concrete and carefully considered. Presidents and Prime Ministers met, government ministers and other representatives of our countries held talks. In this way, a relatively broad network of relationships developed and continued to fulfil its basic purpose despite the voices of doubt that were raised from time to time.
The main organizations we wished to join were the European Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It was also our intention from the outset that our three countries be accepted as members of these groupings at the same time. Following the break-up of Czechoslovakia, and after developing in its own unique way, Slovakia joined NATO a few years later than the rest. Essentially, however, the aims we set for ourselves at the beginning of the 1990s have been fulfilled.
That, of course, does not mean that our four countries have no need to coordinate their policies in areas where it makes sense. On the contrary, there are clear regional groupings in the European Union that differ radically from one another in their histories and their national characters, groupings like the Benelux, the Baltic states, the Balkans, and of course Central Europe. And in that sense, the idea of close cooperation in Central Europe is still alive today.
Czech writer and politician. Former President of Czechoslovakia (1989-92). First President of the Czech Republic (1993-2003).