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25 Years of the V4 as Seen by the Public



VISEGRAD BULLETIN 9 (2/2018)

December 14th, 2018

REVIEW OF MAJOR EVENTS UNDER THE SLOVAK PRESIDENCY OF THE VISEGRAD GROUP, July 2018–December 2018


Expert Meeting of the V4+4 responsible for Cohesion policy post 2020, Bratislava, 3–4 July 2018

Deputy Prime Minister’s Office organised the Kick-off Meeting in Bratislava on 3-4 July under the SKV4PRES dedicated to EU Cohesion policy post2020. V4 plus Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia experts discussed the future of the policy with the participation of international academic involving students of ERSA organisation.

 

V4 Expert Conference on the Medicines Policy, 11 July 2018

The Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic hosted the V4 Expert Conference on the Medicines Policy on 11 July 2018. The conference was dedicated to the first meeting of the Working group on the Medicines Policy. Visegrad group experts identified reasons of medicines shortages and debated their attitude towards the proposal of EU Regulation on HTA (health technology assessment). The discussions were also concentrating on system differences of V4 countries in the sphere of medicines policy, and possible solutions to common problems.


V4 Conference on Transport financing 2021–2027, 12 July 2018, Bratislava

In line with the V4 presidency, a conference on the future of transport financing the upcoming financial perspective has been organized by the SK Ministry of Transport. The goal of the conference was to facilitate discussion between the cohesion member states on challenges lying ahead. Among the most important issues raised were the co-financing rates, eligibility periods as well as the availability of the EU funding in terms of TEN-T core completion until 2030. The participants were experts both in the fields of operational programs and Connecting Europe Facility, therefore it allowed a complex view on public investments in the field of transport.The outcome of the conference was a Joint Declaration of the V4 Ministers, which has been presented to Commission and the Council.

V4 Expert Conference on the Human Capacities, 12 July 2018

The V4 Expert Conference on the Human Capacities took place on 12 July 2018 at the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic. The first meeting of the Working group on the Human Capacities focused on exchange of information, cases of good practices and experience with training and managing of human sources especially in the deficient health professions as doctors and nurses. Additionally, V4 experts debated administrative instruments and policies aimed at increase of numbers of professionals in the health care sector.

V4+ expert preparatory meeting “Regional specifics of fighting tuberculosis”, 16 July 2018

On 16 July 2018, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Stanislav Špánik, opened the V4 expert preparatory meeting Regional specifics of fighting tuberculosis, which took place in Bratislava. Consequently, Visegrad group experts discussed whether there are any specific regional needs to end tuberculosis. The meeting was dedicated to following topics: new medicine, vaccine and assess to therapy; specific needs of vulnerable populations in our region; harmonisation of recommendation in compulsory isolation by TB patients; research in TB; and extrapulmonary tuberculosis. The importance of multisectoral actions of the V4 region was highlighted as well as addressing the social and economic determinants of the disease.

Generational Change in Family Businesses, 16–17 July 2018, Bratislava

Private family enterprises in V4 countries were formed only after the year 1989. Almost three decades later, the owners and business leaders are about to retire, facing the choice to either continue with the business and risk losing competitiveness, transfer the company to the next generation or sell it. The Slovak Presidency therefore decided to place the topic of generational transition to the agenda of Visegrad group, with the aim to find a sustainable solution by sharing best practices among the V4 countries and finding areas for future cooperation. V4 State Secretaries for Economy have analyzed the urgent need to tackle the question of generational change in V4 economies. As this is the first time V4 economies are facing this challenge, policy makers can learn from laws, regulations and programs adopted in their neighboring countries. Given that family businesses in V4 countries share many similar characteristics, countries can not only learn from each other by sharing best practices, but also develop joint initiatives and programs.

Informal Meeting on Urban Dimension in 2020+ Cohesion Policy, 17 July 2018, Bratislava 

The representatives of Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Austria met in the meeting initiated by the Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic to discuss the published legislative package for 2020+ cohesion policy of the EU. It was agreed that all parties involved appreciate the boosted role of urban dimension. However, all of them believe that good practice accumulated during three programming periods of OP URBACT will be secured and used in the for the coming period.


Expert Meeting on the Mobility Package I., 17 July 2018, Bratislava

Experts from the V4 countries met in Bratislava to discuss the main positions of all V4 countries towards the Mobility Package I. The Slovak Republic prepared the Discussion Paper and tried to find the common V4 position on the various aspects of the Mobility Package I. All V4 countries agreed that there is a need for clear and uniform rules that should be easily enforceable, which could make transport more efficient and cleaner while ensuring proper social conditions for drivers. In the afternoon the representatives of the Austrian Presidency joined the V4 meeting and presented their plan in respect of the Mobility Package I. to achieve the general approach on the TTE Council in December.

 

Visegrad group (V4) Expert meeting on Postal services focusing on Universal service and its expected development, 8–9 November 2018, Bratislava

On the behalf of Slovak V4 Presidency, delegates from each V4 country as well as experts from European Commission and PostEurop met in Bratislava to discuss the future development of universal service. The core information was about the universal service in each country and its expected development and future trends in the medium-term horizont. All participants presented and discussed the current situation of universal service and expected evolution in the following years, including difficulties and also a potential necessities to amend the postal directive. Partners have agreed on more intense cooperation.


Meeting of the Agriculture Ministers of the V4+4 (Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia), 15-16 August 2018, Oponice, Slovakia

The first meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture of the Visegrad group (CZ, HU, PL and SK) and Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia within the Slovak presidency in the Visegrad group took place in Oponice, Slovakia on the 15–16 August 2018. The discussion was held on the 15 August 2018 and on the 16 August 2018; the delegations attended the ceremonial opening of the 45th International Agricultural and Food Fair Agrokomplex 2018. The agenda of the meeting on the 15th August 2018 was focused on 3 topics, namely: 1) the legislative package of the CAP post 2020, 2) strategic priorities of the BIOEAST Initiative and 3) the proposed directive on unfair trading practices on the food supply chain. Based on the outcome of the discussion the heads of delegations signed a Common position of the Agriculture Ministers of the Visegrad group and Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia on the proposed Directive on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the food supply chain.


V4 + Air Force Commanders Informal Meeting, 31 August–1 September 2018, Vígľaš

The Air Force Commanders of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden and the Deputy Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe & Air Forces Africa held an informal meeting in Slovakia. The aim of the meeting was to continue informal discussions on further development of mutual cooperation in the field of sharing capabilities and experiences during training and education of air force specialists. The meeting was chaired by Slovak Air Force Commander Major General Ľubomír Svoboda. He expressed his appreciation for the high level of multilateral relations among the Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden and the USA during the meeting. At the informal meeting, individual leaders went over the options for modernising air forces and replacing radar systems.

 

Joint V4 participation at the DLD Innovative Festival, 3–6 September 2018, Tel Aviv, Israel

The Slovak Republic was an active member of the V4 countries joint participation at the DLD's Innovative Festival in Tel Aviv - Israel, organized for start-ups from many countries of the world on 03-06 September 2018. As a result of the Budapest meeting of V4 + Israel Prime Ministers in May 2018 there were several joint and bilateral tasks, one of them was the creation of a joint V4 exhibition stand for start-ups at the DLD Festival. Slovakia was in the stand represented by the Slovak Business Agency (SBA). The DLD Innovative Festival was attended by experts from the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic, SBA and from the Slovak Innovative and Energy Agency (SIEA). The experts discussed at bilateral level with the Israeli partners about the R & D cooperation and, among other topics, also about the project of the V4 start-ups internship in Israel, whose pilot year was successfully held in December 2018.


V4 Expert Skype Conference: Working group on Health Policy Cooperation, 7 September 2018

The Institute of Health Policies led the first teleconference of V4 Working group on Health Policy Cooperation. Visegrad experts on health information exchanged know-how about the following topics: central public procurement, benchmarking of prices of purchases, infrastructural projects and network of providers.

Plenary meeting on Combating Fraud with Mineral Oils, 10–12 September 2018, Bratislava

Event was organized by the Financial Administration, in cooperation with EUROPOL, with the participation of 18 member states and representatives of CEPOL, EUROPOL, the Customs Cooperation Working Group (EU Council), the European Commission and the World Customs Organization. The basis for cooperation in the field of combating evasion of mineral oil excise duty is a joint declaration against evasion of excise duties signed by the General Directorates of V4 Customs Administrations in Bratislava in 2011. During the plenary meeting were presented the results of a questionnaire aimed at smuggling mineral oils, joint customs operations in the field of mineral oils carried out within the EU in the previous period and the exchange of experience in this field. At the meeting was also presented a Spanish proposal to change legislation, namely three new subheadings under the Combined Nomenclature.

 
2nd Conference of officials of Export-Credit Agencies of the V4 countries, 13 September 2018, Bratislava

Slovak Export-Credit Agency (ECA) EXIMBANKA SR organized a second edition of the V4 ECA Conference after it´s initiation meeting in Budapest, in 2017. The conference has been opened by the key speakers State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs Mr. Lukáš Parízek and CEO and Chairman of the Bank Board Ms. Monika Kohútová. To enrich the discussions even further, in addition to the V4 ECAs also Austrian ECA OeKB was invited to the table. The ECA conference is an excellent platform for exchanging views, experience and new ideas, as well as to coordinate the voice of V4 ECAs in presenting these opinions in the EU and OECD. The world of export credits is dynamically changing in correlation with the changes of the international business environment and thus, ECAs must adapt to these changes. Presenters from all five ECAs gave presentations focused on these adaptations and new developments in their home institutions. Moreover, challenges such as competition with other players, global sanctions or different regulatory issues, that ECAs are facing today and will be onwards in the future, were outlined as well and led to the fruitful discussion with ideas on how to improve their position on the market. Symbolic handover of the rotating Presidency of V4 to the next country, the Czech Republic, took place as well.


The international conference titled “Evaluation of EU Funds – Are we able to learn a lesson?” 13 September 2018, Bratislava

The Conference was held under the auspices of Mr Richard Raši, Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatization of the SR within the framework of the SK V4 PRES on 13 September 2018. The conference was intended to assess and present results of the 2007–2013 programming period. One of the topics was a view of how to use recommendations and a view of possibilities to learn a lesson in the current 2014–2020 programming period. The conference also offered a floor for a meeting of those who were interested in exchanging experience when searching for the best solutions and approaches of using the results of evaluations of the EU funds which also contribute to the long-term prosperity of Slovakia.

 

International conference Municipal V4: SMART Agenda for Quality and Modernization, 18–19 September 2018, Sliač-Sielnica

Was organizedby Association of Towns and Communities of Slovakia within the national project "Modernization of Local Self-government" supported by European social fund, operational programme Effective public administration on 18. -19. September 2018 in the Hotel & Spa Resort Kaskády, Sliač – Sielnica. The aim of the conference: Presentation of attitudes to selected topics, which significantly affect the activities of local self-government and their perception in terms of the Slovak Republic, considering the V4 context.


V4 Defence Planning Group Meeting, 18–19 September 2018, Bratislava

The first meeting of the V4 Defence Planning Group under the Slovak V4 Presidency 2018/2019 took place on 19 September 2018 in Bratislava. The SVK V4 Presidency prepared and presented their first draft of the updated V4 Capability Development Matrix. The Matrix serves as a list of projects with the best potential for furthering cooperation among the V4 countries, which could provide useful information to national experts on a variety of areas, including defence planning, force planning, and armaments. Representatives of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia shared their initial views on the proposed V4 Capability Development Matrix, which formed the basis for subsequent discussions on the content of the Matrix. The V4 Planning Group also discussed the implementation of the joint V4 NATO Capability Target – V4 Joint Logistics Support Group Headquarters (V4 JLSG HQ). The V4 Defence Planning Group finished the meeting with a discussion on current NATO and EU defence initiatives.


PESCO Workshop – EuroArtillery 2nd Working Group Meeting, 18–19 September 2018, Bratislava

On Day 1, the meeting was focused on the following agenda:

  • Informing partners about the steps taken towards implementing the Euro-Artillery project (in February–October 2018)
  • SVK Presentation on EU Artillery Platforms Analysis
  • Presentations of EU Defence Industry Producers
  • Follow-up Discussion


On Day 2, SVK and ITA focused on EuroArtillery’s three subprojects:

  1. Integration of Long Range Ammunition into Existing Artillery Systems
  2. PGK Course Correction Fuse Development
  3. Common Fire Control System Development


Technical data, foreseen roadmap, and project implementation steps were presented at the meeting. The nations were asked to announce their involvement in the project as project members or observers by 30 November 2018 at the latest. After this date they will be able to participate in the project, but they cannot influence the conditions already set by the project members.


23th Meeting of the Mid European Group on Biocides, 20–21 September 2018, Bratislava

Biocidal products are necessary for the control of organisms that are harmful to human or animal health and for the control of organisms that cause damage to natural or manufactured materials. However, biocidal products can pose risks to humans, animals and the environment due to their intrinsic properties and associated use patterns. The EU law on biocides is underpinned by the precautionary principle, the aim of which is to safeguard the health of humans, the health of animals and the environment. The priority of the Mid European Group on Biocides is to strengthen the exchange of expert and legal information among the Mid European Member States since they face similar geographical and climate conditions, and the same occurrence of harmful organisms combated by biocides. Representatives from competent authorities on biocides and from their associated expert bodies from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Slovenia discussed the problems they are facing in the field of application of EU legislation on biocides and in performing expertise aimed to evaluation of biocidal products and biocidal active substances. The Slovak Industry in the field of biocides attended the open session of the meeting and took advantage of the presence of the competent authorities´ representatives from by vis-à-vis discussing points of their interest.


Director General Meeting of the V4+4 responsible for Cohesion policy post 2020, 24–25 September 2018, Bratislava

Deputy Prime Minister’s Office organised the Director General Meeting of the V4+4 responsible for Cohesion policy post 2020 on 24-25 September in Bratislava under the SKV4PRES dedicated to EU Cohesion Policy post 2020. V4 plus Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia Director Generals discussed the priorities relevant in negotiating the future of Cohesion policy.


V4 Defence Policy Directors Meeting, 24–25 September 2018, Tatranská Lomnica

This meeting was the first one on the level of political directors of the Ministries of Defence of the Visegrad Group countries (V4) during the Slovak V4 Presidency (SK PRES V4). This enabled the participants to discuss current V4 cooperation initiatives, as well as the potential for their further development, and to share their views and positions on current EU and NATO initiatives, in order to look for synergies in their implementation. The political directors expressed their satisfaction with the level of defence cooperation in the V4 format and confirmed their support for the Slovak Presidency and the priorities set by the Slovak Republic for SK PRES V4. In addition to the development of regional cooperation, all participants noted significant potential for joint action on EU and NATO initiatives. On most issues, participants agreed and confirmed there was a need to intensify further cooperation at V4, EU, and NATO levels. Last but not least, the meeting also served to prepare the agenda for the upcoming talks in the V4 format, at the levels of state secretaries in October 2018 and defence ministers in November 2018.

 

V4 CHODs Meeting, 25–26 September 2018, Halič

On 25-26 September 2018, an informal meeting of the V4 Chiefs of Defence (V4 CHODs) was organized and chaired by SVK Chief of the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces Lieutenant General Daniel Zmeko in Halič. The first part of the talks focused on a series of presentations on the current Slovak V4 Presidency programme and related military events. The second part of the meeting took place at the Lešť Training Centre, with the aim of presenting the final phase of the Slovak Shield 2018 military exercise conducted by Allied troops from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the USA.

 

V4 policy planners meeting, 26 September 2018, Bratislava

V4 policy planners and experts of think tank Think Visegrad discussed the Think Visegrad Paper: What Visegrad we want. Finding common grounds for the future development of the V4 - internal aspect, Visegrad 4 – our place in the EU and broader Europe. They also discussed the plans for SK V4 PRES and internal issues.

 

V4–Canada High-level consultations, 28 September 2018, New York

The meeting of V4 Political Directors and their Canadian counterpart M. Gwozdecky took place on 28 September 2018 on the margins of the 73rd UNGA in New York. The discussion focused on US, Russia, China, Ukraine, the Western Balkans, the current EU affairs, defense and multilateralism. The 2018 annual political consultations between Canada and the Visegrád Group members provided an opportunity for an exchange views on pressing regional and global issues and strengthened mutual Canada–V4 relations.


Visegrad Group Ministerial Meeting on High-Speed Rail, 30 September–1 October 2018, High Tatras

V4 Ministers responsible for the High-Speed Rail (A. Érsek, A. Adamczyk, P. Szijjárto, D.Ťok) and representatives of the European Investment Bank met in High Tatras to discuss possible development and financing possibilities of the project which is becoming one of transport priorities in the V4 region. Ministers also opened other actual transport topics such as Mobility Package and Via Carpatia. At the end of the Ministerial Meeting the participants signed the “Declaration of Intent of the Ministers of the Visegrad Group countries for cooperation to develop a high-speed railway network in Central Europe“, which emphasized the importance and gave the political approval to the high-speed railway project.

 

V4 Scientific Conference on Public Procurement, 2 October 2018

On 2 October 2018 the Office for Public Procurement in cooperation with the Faculty of Law of the Comenius University in Bratislava organized a scientific conference that was aimed at the expert public. This was the first activity of the Office for Public Procurement within the ongoing Slovak Visegrad Group Presidency. The expert representatives of the Office for Public Procurement as well as from the NGO sector and from Visegrád Group partner authorities presented their stances to selected topics and debated on them with present representatives of the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Ms. Irmfried Schwimann and Mr. David Blanchard. The conference covered in total two topics. It focused on Direct Negotiation Procedure and on the concept Value for Money. Mr. Miroslav Hlivák, the Chairman of the Office for Public Procurement, emphasized that direct negotiation procedure that takes place for instance in case of procuring of IT systems for public administration is a widespread problem all over the EU countries. He underlined his position that this approach to public procurement is legitimate mostly in cases when there is one IT provider only. Mr. Hlivák also noted that the principle value for money of directly related to public procurement. The contracting authorities should not only focus on what they procure, but they should also take into account the real value of the resources spent in the public interest.


V4 Surface Based Air Defence (SBAD) Modernization Working Group, 4 October 2018, Bratislava

On 4 October 2018, the V4 Surface Based Air Defence (SBAD) Modernization Working Group met at the SVK MOD in Bratislava, to present the current state of play of SBAD systems in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia. They discussed their intentions to replace or modernise their current SBAD assets in the years 2021 -2030. To support this objective, the working group decided to draft an Analytical Study called “Modernization of Surface Based Air Defence Systems in V4 Countries”. V4 SBAD experts discussed the content of the Analytical Study. Moreover, the delegations agreed to organise a workshop in March 2019 to prepare a detailed content of the Analytical Study.


Meeting of Finance Ministers in the V4 plusformat with the participation of France, Germany and Austria on the own resources of the EU Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027 and Taxation of the Digital Economy, 5 October 2018, Štrbské Pleso

This event was organized by the Ministry of Finance and it was concluded by signing two of documents:


  • Joint Declaration of V4 Finance Ministers on the Revenue Side of the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework
  • Joint V4 Ministerial Declaration on the Taxation of Digital Economy


V4 Finance Ministers agreed in the discussions on the multiannual financial framework that the EU's main revenue should continue to be the contributions of member states, on the basis of their economic performance, supplemented by revenues from the levying of duties. V4 Finance Ministers also expressed their support for a temporary European solution for the taxation of digital economy.


V4 Transfer Pricing Workshop "Defining Safe Havens for Selected Transaction under Transfer Pricing", 10–12 October 2018, Veľký Meder

Financial Directorate organized this event in cooperation with the OECD and the IMF. The event was attended by experts representing the Slovak tax administration and the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, experts from V4 member countries as well as colleagues from Slovenia and Latvia. Professional lectures were provided by representatives of the OECD and the IMF. The main objective of the meeting was to address tax uncertainty and high administrative burdens in the area of ​​transfer pricing through the introduction of safe havens principles. The purpose of the workshop was to share knowledge and practical experience among experts dealing with the subject matter. The subject of the discussions was not only the introduction of legislative bases, but also the practical use of the "safe haven" institute in selected countries. At the end of the meeting, possible solutions to the implementation of this institute with its strengths and weaknesses were presented, as well as proposals to introduce "safe havens" into legislative practice.


V4 Conference on Artificial Intelligence (11 October 2018, Brussels)

The motto of the international conference was cooperation not just among V4 countries, but across whole Europe. The goal of the conference was to create a platform for a discussion among distinguished experts, professionals and researchers representing various sectors of economy and society who are dealing with the implementation and real use of AI solutions. Around 120 participants from the EU Member States, European institutions, industry and civic organisations, OECD and NATO took part in the conference. The main topics touched upon research and development, industry and economy including data policy, societal changes and impact of artificial intelligence on labour market as well as artificial intelligence within the context of cyber warfare.

 

Informal working meeting of Speakers of the V4 Parliaments, 12–13 October 2018, Košice

Kick-off event of parliamentary dimension of the Slovak V4 Presidency outlined a schedule of planned activities to be undertaken by the National Council of the Slovak Republic. V4 parliamentary leaders brainstormed how to make benefit of the enlarged V4 + format on level of national legislative assemblies. They also exchanged their views on perspectives of the common EU migration policies and their security related aspects. Discussion also featured opportunities for strengthening of the V4 inter-parliamentary cooperation within Central European region. It underlined support for the trans-border cooperation (energy and transport infrastructure, tourism) and at last, but not least engagement of parliamentary administrations in common assistance and development projects vis-a-vis third countries (democracy and good governance, legislative transparency, capacities building and sharing best practices).

 

International conference on the “Risk Valuation and Risk Management Tools in the Agri-Food Sector”, 17–18 October 2018, Bratislava

In the context of the Commissions new proposal for the CAP after 2020, an International conference on the “Risk Valuation and Risk Management Tools in the Agri-Food Sector” focusing on the important topic of risk management in agriculture, was held in Bratislava on the 17 and 18 October 2018. The Conference was divided in two parts, scientific and strategic part. During the strategic ministerial part, held on 18 October, V4 Ministers of Agriculture met with Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development and Frank van Tongeren, high level OECD representative to discuss effective measures in the field of risk management and risk elimination in agri-food sector. At the end of the strategic meeting, all participating delegations adopted the Political conclusions on “Risk Valuation and Risk Management Tools in the Agri-Food Sector“.


V4 Senior Body Meeting, 17-18 October 2018, Tatranská Lomnica

The State Secretaries of the V4 Ministries of Defence (Deputy Defence Ministers) met in V4 Senior Body format on 17–18 October in Tatranská Lomnica. This is the first such meeting the Slovak Republic Slovakia has hosted since taking over the V4 Presidency in July 2018. During the V4 Senior Body meeting, State Secretary Róbert Ondrejcsák and his counterparts Jakub Landovský, István Szabó and Tomasz Szatkowski concentrated their attention on NATO, EU and V4 topics of current interest. Among the most resonating issues were capabilities development, force readiness, NATOʼs adapted Command Structure, PESCO, including the review of joint projects, and the stand-up of the V4 EU Battlegroup in 2019. The V4 State Secretaries agreed they will submit a proposal for another battlegroup to be stood up in 2023, whilst at the same time looking for joint solutions to Military Mobility by strengthening regional infrastructure.

 

Rings in Water 2018 – The 10th Competition for Crafts-oriented Design

This tenth biennial event organised by ÚĽUV has confirmed that Rings in Water has already been adopted, not only by schools and designers, but also by the lay public which is beginning to notice it. The partners of the competition were Moravian Gallery in Brno (Czech Republic), Cepelia Foundation (Poland), Hagyományok Háza (Hungary) and Cieszyn Castle (Poland). The long-term objective of the competition is to seek out, present and support students as well as established designers, architects, artists and craftsmen in various fields of production. The event highlights areas where folk tradition, natural materials and traditional craft techniques overlap with the current needs of contemporary design. The opening ceremony took place in ÚĽUV on 18 October 2018 with approximately 120 participants including special guest representing the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Konrád Rigó.

 

Annual conference on innovative standard diagnostic and standard the therapeutical guidelines, 18–19 October 2018, Bratislava

The preparation of standard diagnostic and therapeutic procedures (SDTP) was the main topic of the 2nd Annual Interdisciplinary Conference, which took place in Bratislava on 18–19 October 2018. The MoH of Slovak Republic has been intensively working on standard procedures for individual medical and non-medical departments as well as interdisciplinary areas since September 2017. The expert working groups have so far produced and evaluated 152 standard procedures, which are in the process of finalization and preparation for implementing to practice. A total of 19 standards are currently ready for implementation, from the Department of Psychiatry, Nursing or Radiation Oncology. Uniform system of patient management, diagnostics and subsequent treatment is successfull in the Scandinavian countries, Australia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, but also in neighboring Austria, and is currently introduced into the healthcare and interdisciplinary departments in the Czech Republic and Hungary.


Environmental ministerial meeting of the V4 + Bulgaria and Romania, 22 October 2018, Bratislava

The very first environmental meeting during Slovak presidency of the V4 took place in the premises of Old National Council and was hosted by State Secretary of the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic Mr. Norbert Kurilla. The main topics of the morning discussion were focused on state and future steps to be taken regarding the implementation of clean air and climate change measures, with most resonating discussion on air quality, national air pollution control program, cross-sectoral cooperation in achieving air quality objectives, fuel poverty aspect in determining air quality improvement measures and climate change debate (the Talanoa dialogue). The roundtable informed about the state of implementation of measures, national activities and strategies and, in particular, the challenges they face in relation to the implementation of the necessary measures, with the ultime necessity to involve the private and public sectors in these activities. Participants in their discussion also accented that without close cooperation between several sectors, especially agriculture, transport and energy, it would be difficult and almost unrealistic to achieve successful results. One of the key investments remains the area of research and innovation. Among the most important measures will be the creation of long-term strategies, which must have a clear vision and strong political support. The participants of the morning session were then invited to join the 25th meeting of the OECD Green Action Task Force, held historically for the first time in a country of Central Europe, a fact that is important because of its historical background, the very first meeting was launched in the early nineties by the then Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. The Bratislava meeting focused on two main themes – a sustainable energy sector and green financing in a high-level panel discussion, with such main speakers as the Vice-President of the European Commission for the Energy Union Mr. Maros Sevcovic and Vice-President of the European Investment Bank Mr. Vazil Hudak, UN ECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova and Director of the OECD Directorate for Environment Mr. Rodolfo Lacy.


Meeting of the V4 Ministers of Health, 22–23 October 2018, Štrbské Pleso

Minister of Health of the Slovak Republic, Mrs. Andrea Kalavská, hosted the Meeting of the V4 Ministers of Health, held on 22–23 October 2018 in Štrbské Pleso. The informal meeting was dedicated to two topics: Human Resources and Medicines Policy. Firstly, the ministers discussed the issue of supplementing the missing medical staff, which represents a long-term problem in the whole Visegrad region. Delegations introduced administrative measures and solutions aimed at increase of numbers of professionals in the health care sector. Secondly, ministers identified the reasons of medicines shortages, debated their attitude towards the proposal for an EU Regulation on HTA (health technology assessment) and discussed framework of possible cooperation.


On 23 October 2018 directors of V4 MFAs Policy Planning Departments participated in the conference Role of the OSCE in managing the crisis in Eastern Ukraine: lessons learned and prospects, organized by Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA) and Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia. During the conference, policy planners discussed current affairs with OSCE/CPC representatives. The event continued by a separate meeting of V4 policy planners where they shared views on OSCE in the light of the conference.


Meeting of V4+4 Ministers responsible for Cohesion Policy, 24 October 2018, Bratislava

Ministers responsible for Cohesion Policy of the V4 + and the Commissioner Corina Cretu met in Bratislava on 24th October 2018, to convey and agree on key priorities stemming from the legislative proposals for the Cohesion Policy beyond 2020. The meeting was hosted by Deputy Prime Minister of the SR for Investments and Informatization, Richard Raši. The Joint Statement which was the result of intense discussions of V4+ countries was agreed by V4 ministers and supported by Bulgaria and Croatia.


9th Annual International Scientific Conference National and International Security 2018, 25–26 October 2018, Liptovský Ján

The Security and Defence Department at the Slovak Armed Forces Academy (AOS) organised an international scientific conference entitled National and International Security 2018. 72 experts from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia attended the 9th edition of the conference, with representatives from across the Army, Police and civilian universities, scientific and professional institutions, SVK Armed Forces, SVK Ministry of Defence, SVK Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, and SVK Ministry of Interior. In attendance at the conference were also PhD students of International Relations and Security Policy from AOS. The conference was held in five thematic blocks. The first one was focused on current security development issues, the second on international security, the third on national security, the fourth on armed forces development, and the fifth on security theory. A total of 32 presentations were delivered at the conference. The focus of the four conference opening speeches was on topics concerning the Slovak OSCE Chairmanship in 2019, the current strategic and security situation in the world, the EU's immigration and asylum policy, and the future operational environment in Europe. It was emphasised that the Slovak Republic should not only be a passive consumer of security, but it also needs to make active contributions even when it comes to conflict elimination. At the conference, security issues were analysed from different standpoints – economic, geopolitical, military, and sociopolitical. What also resonated at the conference were the impact of the current threats on the security environment of the Slovak Republic and the EU, the need for sharing information on national security policy, and the questions concerning the implementation of the conclusions of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and the NATO Strategic Concept. A discussion panel on the defence cooperation of the Visegrad Group, chaired by Ing Ján Marek from the Security and Defence Department, AOS, was held at this year’s conference. Expert panelists on the discussion panel included: Prof Dr Klára Kesckeméthy, PhD (National University of Public Administration, Budapest, Hungary), Antonín Novotný, MSc Eng, PhD (University of Defence Brno, Czech Republic), Mgr Rudolf Pástor, (external doctoral student of Security and Defence of Slovak Republic Study Programme, AOS) and Mgr Gracjan Miernicki (University of Opole, Poland).

 

Scientific workshop – Guidelines in Prevention 2018, 26 October 2018, Bratislava

Prevention Guidelines and Procedures were the central theme discussed by experts at the Scientific Workshop held on October 26, 2018 at the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic. At the same time, the organizers presented the project "Creation of New and Innovative Procedures for Prevention and their Implementation into Medical Practice". Experts discussed Standards and Recommended Guidelines for Prevention in the areas of infectious, oncological, cardiovascular, endocrinological and metabolic, neurodegenerative, psychiatric and pulmonary diseases. Effective screening programs, their deployment, maintenance, evaluation and management were also important topics of the workshop.

 

V4+ Gas Round Table, 29 October 2018, Brussels

V4 Gas Roundtable, which took place on 29th October 2018 in Brussels, provided a constructive discussion about the future role of natural gas in the region of Central and South Eastern Europe. It provided a possibility for representatives of transmission system operators and stakeholders in the gas sector from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, as well as future Presidency of the EU Council – Romania, to directly engage in dialogue with the European Commission, which is currently preparing the basics of the future design of the EU gas market. Speakers highlighted the role of gas in the energy sector, its flexibility and potential to help the deployment of renewable energy sources and its importance for the region. However, some challenges in the region need to be addressed, in particular with regards to energy security and opening of gas markets. The V4 Presidency will continue the dialogue on the reform of the gas market and hopes that its activities will help to shape our future policy in the field of gas.


V4 National Contact points meeting on the Migration Crisis Response Mechanism, 5–6 November 2018, Štrbské Pleso

MCRM aims to find effective solutions for better management of migration and just asylum system through V4 joint actions. It is based on three headings: intra-European cooperation, information sharing and external dimension. At the meeting organized by the Migration Office of the MoI, there was room for discussion on the latest developments regarding migration and asylum issues in the V4 countries. Discussions on the individual pillars of the project, their current status and the possibilities of their further direction and development followed.


Consultations of V4 Political Directors in Skopje, 7 November 2018, Skopje

During the consultations of V4 Political Directors held in Skopje on 7 November 2018, the V4 Political Directors met with G. Cekov, Director for bilateral relations with European countries at the MFA, State Secretary V. Dimovski and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence R. Sekerinska. The discussion focused on the domestic situation in FYRoM in the context of the referendum results, EU and NATO integration, CFSP including Russia, migration and relations with neighbours.


The conference "Strengthening synergies and complementarities between ESI Funds and directly managed funds", Bratislava, 8 November 2018

The conference organised by Deputy Prime Minister’s Office for Investments and Informatization was held in Bratislava on 8 November 2018. Participants of the conference, including the representatives of the EC, V4 + 4 countries and representatives of directly managed programs in Slovakia, agreed on the need for more efficient use of directly managed programs and closer coordination of directly managed programs and ESI Funds.

 

Visegrad group (V4) Expert meeting on Postal services focusing on Universal service and its expected development, 8–9 November 2018, Bratislava

On the behalf of Slovak V4 Presidency, delegates from each V4 country as well as experts from European Commission and PostEurop met in Bratislava to discuss the future development of universal service. The core information was about the universal service in each country and its expected development and future trends in the medium-term horizont. All participants presented and discussed the current situation of universal service and expected evolution in the following years, including difficulties and also a potential necessities to amend the postal directive. Partners have agreed on more intense cooperation.


V4 Conference on Directly Managed Funds and MFF (9 November 2018, Bratislava)

Office of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic for Investments and Informatization organised international conference on effective use of directly managed funds and their synergies with European structural and investment funds. Experts on directly managed funds from V4 countries, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia (countries V4+4) exchanged experience in the use of financial resources within directly managed funds, shared their examples of best practices and successful projects. European Commission’s representatives also presented their experience and advice.


International Drug Event V4+ “Drugs and addiction, integrated view. Meeting of Experts on Methamphetamine”, 13–14 November 2018, Bratislava

On 13–14 November 2018, under the auspices of the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic, the International Drug Event V4+ "Drugs and Addiction, Integrated View, Meeting of Experts on Methamphetamine" was held in Bratislava. This is the first time that problem with drugs (methamphetamine) was highlighted by the Slovak Ministry of Health in the framework of the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group. Participants had opportunity to get to know the latest information on the methamphetamine situation in the V4+ countries - supply reduction, law enforcement measures (precursors), production of methamphetamine, distribution and seizures, international cooperation as well as monitoring of illegal drugs in Slovak waste waters.


V4 Training, Education and Exercise Synchronization Conference, 13–14 November 2018, Pezinok

This conference was organized by the J-7 Branch of the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces. During the conference, V4 countries presented their contributions to the joint training, exercise and education plan, which contributes to a more efficient, more sustainable and more reliable effort. Slovakia will appreciate additional events in this area in the future, since there is a need to further enhance collaborative activities.


ITAPA 2018 (13–14 November 2018, Bratislava)

Main topics of ITAPA conference related to the latest trends in electronic public administration and solutions for digitalisation of societies. The conference attended by representatives of European Commission, academia and expert community. The participants exchanged opinions and experiences about current development of digital agenda and in the area of digital transformation; data and artificial intelligence; cloud policy; public procurement and IT, cyber security, effective public administration and eGovernment. Alongside the conference, an accompanying workshop on intelligent cities also took place.

 

V4 Defence Ministers Meeting, 14–15 November 2018, Tatranská Lomnica

A two-day meeting of the V4 Defence Ministers, the first one in this format during the Slovak V4 Presidency, was officially opened on 14 November 2018 in Tatranská Lomnica in the High Tatras, Slovakia. On the formation of joint military units, Ministers took stock of the preparations for the stand-up of the V4 European Union Battlegroup (V4 EU BG), to be on standby immediately after the end of the Slovak V4 Presidency in the second half of 2019, as well as for the Joint Logistic Support Group Headquarters (JLSG HQ). Ministers praised the progress made in several other areas of cooperation as well. On military education, training and exercises, the Declaration of Intent Concerning the Professional Military Education Enhancement Initiative was signed in Warsaw on 13 November 2018, the V4 Training, Education and Exercise Synchronization Conference concluded on 14 November 2018 in Pezinok, and the Visegrad Military Medicine Conference (VIMIMED 2019), a novelty, was scheduled to take place on 4-6 February 2019 in Slovakia. Defence ministers also addressed current initiatives of the North Atlantic Alliance, especially in the context of the July NATO Summit in Brussels and the commitments NATO Allies declared during the meeting of Heads of State and Government, mainly on increased defence spending, defence capabilities development, and greater NATO engagement in projecting stability in its immediate neighbourhood.


Meeting of Speakers of the V4+DE+FR Parliaments, 15 November 2018, Bratislava

Event hosted by the National Council of the Slovak Republic welcomed parliamentary leaders from four Visegrad countries as well as guests of honour – President of the German Bundestag W. Schäuble, President of the French National Assembly R. Ferrand and representatives of the French Senate. The event was accompanied by a commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the World War 1 Armistice. Agenda of the meeting featured above all future of the European Union, with an interactive exchange on views related to its values, institutions and common policies. Discussion offered a reflection on the forthcoming 2019 European Parliament elections and stressed the role of national parliaments within the EU decision-making processes. It also underlined common motion to advance further interaction among EU member States concerning topics of common interest (digital economy, social Europe, cohesion, security and defence) that dispose of capacity to encourage mutual trust and bridge dividing lines.

V4 meeting of Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs refused indexation of family benefits, 15 November 2018, Bratislava

Labour and Social Affairs Ministers and State Secretaries of the V4 group held discussions on the hot topic of indexation of family benefits in the EU on 15th November 2018. The special session was summoned by the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family Mr. Jan Richter in a reaction to Austria's recently adopted piece of legislation on the theme. It introduces indexation of family benefits provided to the children of EU citizens who work in Austria, but whose children reside outside of the territory of Austria, entering to force on January 1st, 2019. The V4 representatives were unanimous in that the said piece of legislation infringes EU law as well as its principle of equal treatment. Ministers of the Visegrad Group Countries, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovenia signed a letter addressed to the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Ms. Marianne Thyssen. They request the Commissioner to examine the Austrian legal act introducing the indexation of family benefits.


V4 Panel at the Central European Energy Conference (CEEC), 19 November 2018, Bratislava

V4 energy ministers had the opportunity to discuss with Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič the current state of the transformation of the energy sector, state of play of the Energy Union, reached achievements and the main challenges in front of which the Energy Union stands. Minister of Economy of the Slovak Republic Peter Žiga pointed out the potential of the Energy Union to create a platform for a common European strategy for the transformation of the energy sector for the period until 2030, underlining the climatic and energy synergy as the basic principle of the Energy Union. With regard to the energy package, V4 Ministers emphasized the energy security aspect, which is also one of the key pillars of our energy policy. In addition, the role of nuclear energy was highlighted as an integral part of the European low carbon energy concept.

 

V4 energy ministerial working lunch with Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, 19 November 2018, Bratislava

The topic of the V4 energy ministerial working lunch with Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Energy Union, was “Main challenges within implementation of the “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package and ways how to reach 2030 targets”. The V4 countries discussed specific steps, "bottlenecks" and other challenges V4 countries face. The focus of the discussion was oriented also on new technologies, the development of renewable energy sources, including electromobility. V4 energy ministers agreed together to promote nuclear power in the energy mix portfolio and also underlined that nuclear power is a stabilizing element in the context of the deployment of variable renewable resources.

 

V4+ Expert meeting Integrated national climate and energy planes, 20 November 2018, Bratislava

The V4 countries + Austria experts involved in preparation of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECP) met together to discuss preparation of draft of the NECPs. The draft of the NECPs shall be submitted to the Commission by every Member State until 31st December 2018. The partners comprehensively discussed the NECPs – renewable energy sources, climate issues, energy efficiency, internal energy market and energy security. Participants exchanged their experiences from the process of creation the draft of the NECPs and possible solutions for some problems. Discussion helped each involved country in further work on the NECPs draft. The meeting of neighbouring countries was also the first step in fulfilling requirements of Article 12 of the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union regarding regional cooperation.


Expert Meeting of the V4 National Tourism Organizations, 20–21 November 2018, Bratislava

Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic organized the working group meeting of experts of the V4 National Tourism Organisations. The main topic of the meeting was the preparation of the V4 marketing plan for upcoming year 2019.

During the meeting partners exchanged information on the current situation and events in the area of tourism and shared their opinions on various important issues affecting tourism development in the Visegrad Group, such as new tendencies in tourism, changing customer habits and possible directions of joint product development Discover Central Europe. Future cooperation will be emphasized on online marketing tools such as website and social media. The partners were delighted to visit some attractive sights in Bratislava.


V4 Expert Meeting on Virtual Currency Cybercrimes, 20-22 November 2018, Bratislava

The topic of the workshop – the misuse of virtual currencies in crime – is currently very timely. Experts have focused on specific case studies. The objective, namely sharing best practices in the investigation and exchange of information on legislation in the V4 countries, has been achieved. The event was rated as highly beneficial by the participants.


V4 expert meeting on connected and automated driving (CAD) and Smart Mobility, 22–23 November 2018, Bratislava

Experts nominated by V4 Ministries have met for the second time to discuss progress and future plans in the area of CAD and Smart Mobility in their countries. As before, this meeting proved to be very helpful and inspiring and all delegates confirmed their interest to continue with similar exchanges of views and experience in the future, within the V4 format, under leadership of a respective Presidency.

All countries confirmed that CAD and Smart Mobility are of high and even growing interest, with a growing demand on state authorities to keep pace and lead transformation in their countries. Several strategies are being produced, some of them are already concluded and followed by the concrete implementation projects.


V4 + France consultations of Directors General of EU Affairs, 27 November 2018, Bratislava

Directors General responsible for EU Affairs of V4 countries and France met in Bratislava and discussed the actual European topics. Among others, the Multiannual financial framework or migration were on agenda, followed by developments in European defense policy, COP24 Climate conference, focus was put also on European internal market, brexit, future of the EU, etc. The meeting proved to be a valuable opportunity for exchanging the views and comprehending the positions of each other. Directors General of V4 countries and France agreed on keeping this format of consultations and meeting again soon.

 

Meeting of the Steering Group on the document Common Spatial Development Strategy of V4+2 Countries, 28 November 2018, Bratislava

Participants of this meeting decided that there is no need for updating the document "Common Spatial Development Strategy of V4+2 Countries" which was approved in Budapest in 2014. As the cooperation in the field of spatial planning has a long history, members decided to stop the work within the Steering Group. The common cooperation will continue under a new name Spatial Observation Group of V4+2 Countries. At the meeting it was agreed to continue by developing, promoting and transferring good practices, exchanging information and knowledge sharing on spatial planning. Further cooperation will focus on current challenges in V4+2 countries emphasizing the spatial planning point of view.


Meeting of Heads of the Passenger Information Units of V4 and Austria, 28–29 November 2018, Bratislava

The event created an appropriate platform for exchanging information and experience on the processing of PNR data between the national passenger information points of the V4 and Austria. Participants analyzed the current and predicted trends related to committing serious crime and terrorism in the Central European region and discussed innovative approaches to identify the activities of perpetrators and the possibilities for effective use of PNR data.


25th Olympic Hopes Steering Committee Meeting, 28–29 November 2018, Bratislava

The 25th annual Olympic Hopes Steering Committee was organised by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic. V4 experts evaluated together 2018 Olympic Hopes competitions and with respect to the long tradition of mutual cooperation and contacts in sport and with the intention to continue and develop these traditions, they have decided to approve a protocol about the cooperation in 2018 including the calendar for 2019 Olympic Hopes competitions. The meeting offered a platform to share experiences and good practices between the Visegrad countries.

 

Workshop V4 + RO + SI + HR on statistics (Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic), 28–29 November 2018, Bratislava

The Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic will be implementing the combined approach to the Population and Housing Census 2021. The integrated census in Slovakia is seen as a combination of the use of registers /administrative data sources and the full field enumeration with the aim to decrease the administrative burden on the population. The workshop was focused on exchange of experiences with the experts from participating countries.


On 30 November 2018 Benelux presidency hosted political consultations between V4 and Benelux policy planners in Brussels. Participants shared their views on brexit, EU external and internal security and EU positions on global issues.

 

The V4 Political Directors under the SK V4 Presidency paid visit to Kiev on 30 November 2018. The current situation in the Sea of Azov was one of the main topics, discussed also with the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Vasyl Bodnar. Political directors expressed solidarity with Ukraine, stressed the importance of free passage through the Kerch Strait and the release of captured Ukrainian sailors and vessels by the Russian Federation. Discussions focused also on the reform process in the country. Appreciated were the reforms that have been carried out what is also confirmed in the assessments of the European Commission. It is crucial to continue with this reform course in spite of the complex situation in the East of Ukraine and the Sea of Azov.


Meeting of V4 specialists on environmental crime, 5–6 December 2018, Bratislava

The topic of the meeting was the issue of illegal logging in the countries of Eastern Europe. Experts have exchanged information on the law and the system of detection and investigation of cases of illegal logging in individual countries, which is a prerequisite for further cooperation. At the same time, they agreed on a further procedure for detecting cases linked to the V4 countries.


V4 National Armaments Directors Meeting (NADs Meeting), 6 December 2018, Bratislava

In this meeting, V4 countries reported on the national armament plans. The Slovak Republic presented its main armaments projects, with particular emphasis on procuring the 8x8 wheeled armored vehicles, the 4x4 multi-purpose tactical vehicles, 3D radars and fighter jets. Hungary reported on its procurement of helicopters, trainer aircraft, vehicles, artillery and anti-tank assets. The Czech Republic informed about its modernization programmes to procure infantry fighting vehicles and short-range SBAD assets, and their intention to purchase multi-purpose helicopters. Poland presented its plans to invest into SBAD systems, long-range artillery, cyber security, and naval vessels. The National Armaments Directors further discussed the reports on the activities of the standing working groups (WG): V4 Surface Based Air Defence (SBAD) Modernization WG, Life Cycle Management WG, and WG for Quality.


Visegrad Youth Forum 2018, 5–7 December 2018, Banská Bystrica 

Banská Bystrica hosted the seventh edition of the annual Visegrad Youth Forum (VYF) The conference took place from December 5 until December 7, uniting young academics, students and experts from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia in various discussions and debates. For the very first time in the history of the project, the final conference was preceded by events in each respective capital city of the Visegrad Group, organized in cooperation with the project’s partner organizations. During the workshop sessions focusing on the future of the V4, the participating students produced recommendations for Visegrad policy makers. Furthermore, during the project’s North Atlantic Council summit simulation, the participants created and agreed on a joint statement about the role of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) within the framework of European and trans-Atlantic defence structures and policies. All outputs, as well as a booklet summarizing the entire project will be available on the project’s official website vyf.eac.sk.

 

V4 and Germany Political Directors' consultations, 9 December 2018, Brussels

The Political Directors of the Visegrad Group met their German counterpart on 9 December 2018 on the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council. The discussion focused on the current situation in Ukraine and in the Sea of Azov, Civilian CSDP Compact and opening of the accession negotiations to EU with fYRoM and Albania in 2019. During consultations, partners elaborated the proposal of German Minister of Foreign Affairs H. Mass on the new "Ostpolitik". Political Directors also exchanged views on the current situation in Iran.


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