The Ministers of the governments of the Czech Republic, the Hungarian Republic, the Republic of Poland and the Slovak Republic, responsible for regional development gathered in Mariánské Lázně on 5 March 2004,
Recognizing a number of areas and issues of common interest in the field of regional policy and cohesion policy among the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia,
Facing the enlargement of the European Union to include ten new members and a wide debate on the future of regional policy and cohesion policy,
Wishing to safeguard the common interests of the countries of the Visegrad Group, which are about to join the European Union,
Declare their commitment to work for the needs of the regions of this part of Europe.
Therefore, we have agreed as follows:
All the Parties declare willingness to cooperate and take joint actions in the field of regional and cohesion policy. As co-operation within the Visegrad Group has continued for many years, it is natural to adopt such an approach that would ensure that the efforts taken by the Parties focus on important regional policy issues that are widely recognised in the EU.
In supplementing the relations between Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia and in response to public support for and interest in regional cooperation in this part of Europe, we should try to redefine the areas and forms of cooperation, especially in co-ordinating regional policy targets and creation of development documents.
The wide debate that is currently underway in the EU on the future of regional and cohesion policy should allow for the needs articulated separately by the current and new member states, as well as the needs of countries in the framework of regional co-operation.
The Parties share the view that it is essential to prepare carefully the principles of a new cohesion policy in order to ensure fast and sustainable development with emphasis on enhancing competitiveness and efficiency of Visegrad area. Given this goal, the Parties will take joint efforts, both within the EU and in the framework of bi- and multilateral relations, to ensure that the ultimate arrangements best reflect needs of Visegrad Group states and regions and that the countries of are able to pursue and active and effective regional policy.
In particular, the Parties highlight the following activities:
- Social, economic and territorial cohesion are the most important areas of intervention by the EU.
- The main aim of the EU regional and cohesion policy should be balanced and sustainable development on the whole of its territory. The most important aim of the regional policy should be reduction of backwardness of the least developed regions.
- It is necessary to simplify regional policy procedures within the EU, including simplification of the mechanisms of the EU's Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund. The complexity of the procedures should be simplified as much as possible and the adequate control over spending should be maintained.
- In line with priorities of Lisbon and Gothenburg agendas, we emphasise support for innovation processes in the economy, including full support for the human resources development.
- The transport infrastructure and the environment remain key areas of Cohesion Fund assistance, but the financial balance between these two sectors should be more flexible according to the needs of particular states. Development of infrastructure is one of key issues of supporting territorial cohesion of European Union, and optimum system of infrastructure network is an essential requirement of regional development.
- We strongly support further continuity of cross-border co-operation, especially on the EU external border and development of the new EU instrument to address this co-operation.
To maintain coordination and good neighbourly relations with neighbours, the Parties deem appropriate to invite the competent ministers of the neighbours of the countries of the Visegrad Group to engage in regular consultations.
The Parties recognize the need for periodical meetings of the ministers responsible for regional development and consider an approach of openness toward other current and new member states of the EU.
Done at Marianské Lázně on 5 March 2004 in four copies in the English language.