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February 1st, 2019

Review of Major Events Under the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group, January 2019–June 2019

V4 Expert Meeting on High Speed Rail, 8 January 2019, Bratislava

V4 Experts on High-Speed Rail discussed on 8 January in Bratislava the possibilities of the development of a high-speed railway network in Central Europe. Experts dealt with operational and technical issues necessary for a successful planning of the project. It was the first meeting of the Working Group established during the V4 Ministerial Meeting on High Speed Rail, which took place on 30 September – 1 October in High Tatras under the Slovak V4 Presidency.


Meeting of the Defence Committees of the V4 Parliaments, 2223 January 2019, Bratislava

The National Council of the Slovak Republic hosted the meeting of the Defence Committees of the V4 Parliaments in January. Members of delegations discussed the role of the OCSE in preserving and restoring peace in Europe, priorities of the Slovak Chairmanship of the OSCE and illegal migration as national security challenge. Parlamentarians underlined the importance of the V4 unity and called for the restoration of the proper functioning of the Schengen area and deepening of cooperation, particularly the security dimension of cooperation. The meeting also focused on exchange of experience with regard to transposition of the European Firearms Directive into national legislation of the V4 countries and the situation in Ukraine posing a serious security concern for V4 countries.


Consultations of V4 and Russian Political Directors, 24 January 2019, Moscow

The consultations of the V4 Political Directors with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation A. Grushko took place on 24 January 2019 in Moscow. The discussion focused primarily on the EU–Russia and NATO–Russia relations, conflict in Ukraine, Western Balkans and Syria. During the meeting, the V4 partners reiterated the common EU and NATO positions on these issues.


Visegrad Military Medicine Conference – VIMIMED 2019, 4–6 February 2019, Liptovský Mikuláš

The Military Medical Service of the Slovak Armed Forces organised the 1st Visegrad Military Medicine Conference – VIMIMED 2019 under the SVK V4 Presidency. Its purpose was to initiate deeper cooperation among V4 countries in the Military Medicine area. The Visegrad Military Medicine Conference – VIMIMED 2019 took place on 4–6 February 2019 at the Slovak Armed Forces Academy in Liptovský Mikuláš as part of the Slovak Visegrad Group Presidency, hoping to establish a new tradition for the V4 military medical services. The conference was attended by about 20 participants from each V4 country. In addition, we were pleased to welcome representatives from the NATO Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine Budapest and from the Multinational Medical Coordination Centre Koblenz. The conference emphasised the importance of cooperation and exchange of expertise among V4 countries and covered a variety of areas of military medicine. Highlights of the Conference: Exchange of expertise among V4 military medical services; familiarization with medical units pre-deployment preparation process to fulfil tasks of domestic and international crisis management; launch of cooperation on medical units training process, including potential exchange programmes and joint activities; Higher level of interoperability of V4 military medical services on joint deployment; Military Medical Logistics – exchange of experience and knowledge in terms of medical materiel and equipment leading to a more efficient and targeted procurement process; Organization and coordination of veterinary support on operations, coordination of V4 personnel, materiel and procedures; Exchange of experience and knowledge about aeromedical assets, materiel, equipment and training procedures/education; Generate joint topics and areas of interest in Force Health Protection, to share good practices and enhance quality of public health services either for military community or general public on occurrence of public health threats; Identify possible gaps and design feasible plans on how to improve selected capabilities. Participants in the working groups had an opportunity to exchange experience and expertise on the areas mentioned above.

V4 & WHO for Health: Fighting TB, 20–21 February 2019, High Tatras

On 20–21 February 2019, the “V4 & WHO for Health: Fighting TB” conference took place in the High Tatras. At the conference, the State Secretaries of the Visegrad Group met with V4 experts, V4 WHO Country representatives and WHO Regional Office for Europe representatives, including WHO Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, Mrs. Z. Jakab. The participants discussed the issues of tuberculosis, cross-border cooperation between V4 countries, universal health coverage, and sustainable development goals. At the same time, the first official meeting of WHO country offices of the V4 countries took place on the first day of the event. An important occasion on the second day of the conference took place in Vyšné Hágy, where the opening ceremony of the WHO Collaborating Centre was held with the strong focus on vulnerable population groups in Central Europe.


Meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Parliaments of the Visegrad Group Countries, 25–26 February 2019, Bratislava

The National Council of the Slovak Republic hosted the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Parliaments of the Visegrad Group Countries on 25–26 February 2019. Parliamentarians discussed the future of the European Union after Brexit and recognized the shared interest of maintaining a good relationship with the United Kingdom after its withdrawal. The agenda of this meeting also featured the topic of Eastern Partnership and its importance for the V4 Countries. The third topic of discussions focused on the International Visegrad Fund and its successful activities both inside and outside the V4 Countries.

Visegrad Film Forum in Bratislava, 19–23 March 2019, Bratislava

The Slovak Presidency also continued in Visegrad audio-visual cooperation. In May 2018, the Visegrad Forum of Animation was transformed into CEE Animation. In addition to the “New Talents” (CEE Animation Talents) project, cooperation also developed in the field of education and support for young professionals through the “CEE Animation Workshop” – a yearlong training scheme for producers and creative teams, and the “CEE Animation Forum”. The platforms are held year-round, with three CEE Animation Workshops being held during the SK presidency, in Ljubljana, Slovenia (30 November – 6 December 2018), Budapest, Hungary (25 – 30 March 2019), Třeboň, Czech Republic (4 – 9 May 2019). The Slovak Film Institute participated in these activities. It initiated more intense cooperation in the audio-visual field in the V4 countries and long supported the implementation of the Visegrad Film Forum in Bratislava. This international education and networking event is dedicated to young film professionals and students of film schools from the V4 countries.

42nd Working Session of V4K Military Human Resources Management Working Group, 25–29 March 2019, Balatonakarattya, Hungary

Based on agreement of the V4 Ministers of Defence, working sessions of senior officials and experts have been organised by respective countries in the field of human resources of the V4 Ministries of Defence on a regular basis and on a rotating principle since 1997. Their aim is to exchange experience on current human resources management issues. The main goal of the international activity is to gather information from individual V4 member countries on human resources management, including especially understanding each other’s approach when it comes to dealing with negative phenomena in the Slovak Armed Forces, which have been on the increase in recent years. The 42nd Working Session was hosted by Hungary and took place at the Recreation, Training and Conference Center (HDF RTCC), Balatonakarattya. The main topics of the 42nd V4 Human Resources Working Group session were: 1. Labour Market – Current Situation and Challenges; 2. Stabilization of Military Personnel; 3. Time Management and Resource Allocation of Military Personnel. Topics #1 and #2 resonated the most at the meeting and raised a lot of questions. We came to a conclusion that the situation on the labour market is identical in all four countries. The good economic situation, the free labour market, the low rates of unemployment, and the recent demographic trends have caused labour shortages. With a significant increase in salaries, declining unemployment rates and a good economic situation, it is increasingly more difficult to find adequately trained and suitable employees. Nowadays, there is increased demand for immigrant workforce from less developed countries in Europe. Employers prefer hiring people with previous work experience, giving more opportunities to ex-service personnel, as they look for a civilian job after the end of their military careers. The participating parties agreed that there is a direct correlation between the financial remuneration and motivation and the stabilization of military personnel. Therefore, in order to maintain, stabilise and motivate military personnel, the Ministries of Defence of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have increased and will continue to gradually increase their HR expenses to a level that keeps them ahead of the other armed forces, while at the same time maintaining a good position on the labour market despite the continuous salary increases in the civil sector. Among the other methods of staff stabilization in place, particularly in Hungary and partially in the Czech Republic, is support for families and children (building nurseries for crew members), free basic dental care, and discounts of 5–15% in civilian companies/shops for professional soldiers and family members (e.g. in support of physical health, fitness and well-being at sports shops, car resellers, construction companies, etc.). The goals of the working session were accomplished and the meeting was inspiring and meaningful. It revealed the different approaches and options we have for handling and solving negative phenomena in the Slovak Armed Forces, which have been on the increase in recent years.

V4 Expert Workshop "New Approaches to the European 112 Emergency Number", 2728 February 2019, Bratislava

The aim of the workshop was to exchange experience of emergency services experts with the introduction of text messages at 112 and eCall, a pan-European system for cars, which in the event of a traffic accident automatically calls the rescue units of the integrated rescue system. These new ways of calling for emergency aid or emergency assistance provide additional opportunities for expanding the sense of security of EU citizens and visitors. The eCall itself has a great potential in helping victims mainly in remote and mountainous areas. The very valuable experience of experts presented on the workshop will be taken into account in further improving the quality of service to citizens.


International conference "V4 – Slovakia towards Smart Cities",5 March 2019, Bratislava

The conference focused on building Smart Cities in conditions of the V4 countries. Smart City is a new approach to urban and regional development, management and planning, using innovation. The Smart Cities concept requires co - operation between the city, the municipality or the region, citizens and technology companies whose intelligent solutions can solve the practical problems of everyday life. The part of conference was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic and InnoEnergy organisation, which focuses on new solutions in the areas of energy, mobility and smart technologies. This memorandum will make it possible for the smart cities to gain better knowledge already existing at EU level. State Secretaries and representatives of the ministries of the V4 countries responsible for the Smart Cities agenda discussed parallel to conference. Their meeting was led by State Secretary of Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic Rastislav Chovanec, with the participation of State Secretary of the Hungarian Ministry of Innovation and Technology Balázs Weingartner, Malgorzata Jarosińska-Jedynak from the Polish Ministry for Investment and Economic Development and David Koppitz from the Czech Ministry for Regional Development. Representatives of V4 countries presented the Smart Cities situation in their countries and agreed on deeper mutual co - operation, which should help to expand the Smart Cities solutions in Central Europe.


V4 Meeting of Directors for South Eastern Europe of the MFAs, 7 March 2019, Bratislava

Directors for South Eastern Europe of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the V4 Group met in Bratislava on 7 March. They exchanged views on the developments in the Western Balkan region and discussed implementation of EU enlargement policy in the upcoming months with special attention to regular Commission´s reports and June GAC meeting. They also touched upon some aspects of organisation of the V4 + Turkey Ministerial Meeting as well as V4 + Western Balkans Ministerial Meeting, which will take place in April and May 2019, respectively.


Meeting on the Joint Tourism Marketing of the V4 Countries at the level of State Secretaries, 1213 March 2019, Štrbské Pleso

The first day of the V4 High-Level Meeting on Tourism ended with the signing of the joint Marketing Plan for 2019 by representatives of national tourism organizations. The conference focused on the situation of the tourism industry in the four countries, its sustainability as well as opportunities for cooperation in the sector. Partners have agreed on a more intense cooperation. Finally, the representatives of the Ministries of the Visegrad Group countries signed the Tourism Cooperation Protocol. The Protocol aims to boost the effectiveness of the tourism marketing strategies of the four countries both via joint projects and by taking advantage of their individual opportunities and experiences.


Meeting of Directors of Migration and Asylum Offices, 12–13 March 2019, Bratislava

The directors of the V4 Migration Offices discussed the current challenges of migration like the need to prepare for the situation after the UK's departure from the EU. There are also organizational and legislative changes, or the need to update V4 countries' migration strategies to reflect the changing situation, with a view beyond 2020. The participants also discussed the progress in implementing V4 joint projects, such as the Migration Crises Response Mechanism (MCRM). There is absolute agreement between the V4 countries on the need to focus efforts on countries of origin; in this respect, a project in Jordan to promote asylum capacity will be launched this year. A necessary prerequisite for targeted activities is the correct analysis of migration data, which is also to be supported by the joint V4 Migration Analytical Center based in Poland. MCRM projects also focus on training of asylum experts who are sent to Member States exposed to greater migratory pressures.


Meeting of the Speakers of V4 + Benelux Parliaments, 24–25 March 2019, Piešťany

On 24–25 March 2019, a two-day conference of the Presidents of Parliaments of the V4 Countries took place in the spa town of Piešťany, while the traditional V4 format was extended by representatives of the Benelux Parliaments. The main part of the discussion focused on The European Union: Ongoing Challenges and Future Prospects. The delegations discussed the issue of democratic legitimacy of the EU, with particular emphasis on the need to clearly define the limits of subsidiarity in order to eliminate ambiguities as to the precise competences of the States and the EU. Furthermore, delegations dealt with the issue of the European elections in May and the need to increase voter turnout, as well as the EU's enlargement by the Western Balkans. It was underlined that the Slovak V4 Presidency is taking place in a situation when the European Union faces many unprecedented challenges - the rise of populism and Euroscepticism, the migration, possibly the financial and economic crisis, Brexit, but also the deterioration of the European continent's security environment.


V4 + Bulgaria, Romania Biodiversity & Nature Protection Director-Generals’ Meeting, 25–27 March 2019, Smolenice Castle, Smolenice

On 25–27 March 2019, within the Slovak V4 Presidency and on the initiative of the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic, a meeting of representatives of the Visegrad Four countries and other invited States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia) concerning nature, biodiversity and landscape protection was held in Smolenice Castle. The main topics of the negotiation included the mapping and evaluation of ecosystem services, their use in practice, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in connection with biodiversity protection/Natura 2000, as well as its adjustment for the future (beyond 2020), and the significance of pollinators including bees, not only in terms of biodiversity protection. The programme included an excursion to the Driny Cave and to the territory of the Small Carpathian Protected Landscape Area with professional commentary and support of the Administration of the Small Carpathian Protected Landscape Area and the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak Republic, as support for the 100th anniversary of the State Nature Conservancy. At the meeting, joint conclusions for individual items of the negotiation were defined; the conclusions on CAP will soon be presented at the meeting of nature and biodiversity protection directors of EU Member States in Brasov, Romania (8–9 April 2019), and in a joint letter also for further professional use to all participants of the V4 + 4 (Bulgaria, Slovenia) at a national level. The conclusions of the CAP discussion agreed by the participants include the importance of the continuation of measures and schemes at least for Natura 2000 sites both on agricultural soil and on forest lands, with the sufficient provision of financial resources, and with connection to the Natura 2000 Financing Prioritised Action Framework under preparation in the Slovak Republic in the 2021–2027 EU programme period, which will propose more accurate financial allocations for the protection of Natura 2000 sites. Individual CAP schemes should be adjusted so that implementation results can be seen unambiguously in favour of the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity, where all relevant institutions and organisations for nature, biodiversity and landscape protection (including environmental inspections) should be involved in their preparation, adjustment, implementation and control. If eco-schemes are part of the first pillar, they should be adjusted simply and comprehensibly so that they can subsequently be efficiently implemented by farmers and protectionists and bring the expected positive impact on the development of agriculture, biodiversity and nature protection. The participants also emphasised the importance of the correct adjustment of the future Common Agricultural Policy in relation to nature, biodiversity and landscape protection and in this context they will support continuing in the coordination of common steps in the future.


Conference NEWMATEC 2019, 2627 March 2019, Šamorín

The annual NEWMATEC Conference took place in the Slovak town of Šamorín on March 26–27, 2019. A part of it was a panel discussion of the State Secretaries from the V4 countries. The main topic of this year’s conference—The future of the automotive industry in the V4 region – was focused on alternative and hydrogen vehicles, automotive megatrends, autonomous and inter-connected vehicles, shared mobility and new trends in the behavior of incoming generation of automotive users. The panel discussion started with the speech of the Minister of Economy of the Slovak Republic Peter Žiga and its participants were State Secretaries Eduard Muřický (CZ), György László (HU) and Vojtech Ferencz (SK), who presented the stated phenomena from the perspective of their countries. During the conference, State Secretaries had the opportunity to personally try driving two hydrogen cars and receive detailed information about this modern technology.


V4 Surface Based Air Defence (SBAD) Modernization Working Group, 26–29 March 2019, Liptovský Mikuláš

The aim of the workshop was to prepare the detailed content of the Analytical Study under the title of “Modernization of Surface Based Air Defence Systems in V4 Countries”. The workshop was held on 26–29 March 2019 at the Slovak Armed Forces Academy in Liptovský Mikuláš, Slovakia. During the fruitful discussions, participants of the workshop agreed on the detailed structure of the Analytical Study and on the timelines and tasks to be delivered by each V4 country for the next workshop in October 2019.


V4 Defence Planning Group Meeting, 27–28 March 2019, Bratislava

The second meeting of the V4 Defence Planning Group under the Slovak V4 Presidency 2018/2019 took place on 28 March 2019 in Bratislava. Representatives of the V4 Defence Planning Group met to discuss possible areas of cooperation in the capabilities development domain and the state of play of current EU/NATO defence initiatives (Permanent Structured Cooperation, European Defence Fund, and European Defence Industrial Development Programme). The V4 representatives shared information on the ongoing and planned capability development programmes in their respective countries and agreed to incorporate their plans on new EU initiatives into the V4 Capability Development Matrix.

V4 expert workshop on electronization of public procurement, 28 March 2019, Bratislava

The Office for Public Procurement of the Slovak Republic organised a V4 expert workshop on electronization of public procurement that took place at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic on 28 March 2019. Among the speakers were representatives of partner state institutions of V4 countries, Isabel-Maria Rosa from the European Commission, as well as Mattheiu Cahen from OECD. "This workshop was certainly useful in sharing experiences from different countries because in many countries the challenges are the same or similar. Collectively we can find the answers to those challenges," said M. Cahen from OECD. "I am glad that the Office organised another forum with international participation where we open a very recent topic. We showed our approach to strengthening of transparency on the example of contract under the limit which since 1 April 2019 can be done though our electronic public procurement system. In this regard we are the leaders among the V4 countries. We also presented our Public Procurement System that is currently in the phase of preparation. It is expected to bring more substantial changes in our effort to reform public procurement," said the Chairman of the SK Office M. Hlivák.


Meeting of the Heads of V4 operational services in the field of smuggling, 8–9 April 2019, Krpáčovo

Heads of the operational services of the V4 countries and Ukraine focused on strengthening regional cooperation and exchange of experience in the field of smuggling investigations. Furthermore, they assessed the security situation in the area of illegal migration and smuggling on the Western Balkan migration route and in the area of protection of the external Schengen border.


V4 + CEDC Defence Policy Directors Meeting, 10–11 April 2019, Brussels

During their second meeting under the Slovak V4 Presidency, V4 Policy Directors discussed current V4 cooperation initiatives, as well as the potential for their further development. In addition, they shared views on current EU and NATO initiatives, seeking synergies in implementing them and coordinating positions that could then be jointly shared during meetings at the level of NATO and EU Defence Ministers. In the discussion, participants expressed their satisfaction with the level of defence cooperation achieved in the V4 format and confirmed their continuous support for the Slovak Presidency as well as the priorities set by the Slovak Republic for SK PRES V4.


Discover Youth Talents Conference, 1112 April 2019, Bratislava

On 11–12 April 2019, the V4 and EaP conference with participation of Western Balkan Countries took place in Bratislava. Overall goal of the conference was to create a platform for discussion aimed at supporting the full development of talent with emphasis on non-formal learning, sharing examples of good practice in youth work and its role in developing potential between V4, EaP and WB. Visegrad Group and Eastern Partnership countries have a productive and steadily developing relationship with substantial dialogue across a wide range of youth issues, working seminars and annual V4 presidency meeting. For the first time in the history, we have decided to enlarge the scope of this cooperation and invited the representatives from Western Balkans to attend the seminar. The main aim of the conference was to discuss the positive influence and enable full development of the potential, the systematic support of talented young people with fewer opportunities and the issue of their identification in informal and non-formal education, sharing examples of good practice and highlighting the role of talent support and development in various fields. It also focused on current challenges such as increasing the capacity of youth workers to use innovative approaches, discovering potential, highlighting cooperation between sectors or working with young people at risk of marginalization.


Meeting of the Chief Hygienists of Visegrad group, 1617 April 2019, High Tatras

On 16–17 April 2019, Meeting of the Chief Hygienists of Visegrad Group countries was held. Leading representatives of public health from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland discussed the topics of vaccination, situation in occurrence of measles, check-up of vaccination status of children subjected to regular mandatory vaccination system, vaccination against tuberculosis as well as actual tasks of public health in supervision over the quality of drinking water. Meeting proved that the discussed broad topics are highly actual and belong to priorities of all presented countries.


V4 + France Meeting of the Foreign Ministers, 18 April 2019, Bratislava

A working meeting of the V4 and French Foreign Ministers took place in Bratislava on 18 April 2019 from the initiative of the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák hosted his V4 partners Tomáš Petříček from the Czech Republic, Jacek Czaputovicz from Poland and Péter Szijjartó from Hungary, at a meeting organized in an extended format with their French counterpart, Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. The V4 Ministers have expressed their solidarity with the French partner in regards to the tragic fire that damaged the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, the spiritual and cultural icon of the European and world heritage. Ministers discussed the future of the European Union, including UK leaving the EU, as well as current developments in the international global environment. Ministers agreed that we can better and more effectively manage the challenges we face today by working together and looking for common solutions. This also corresponds with the principles of the Slovak Presidency of the V4: to promote a positive European agenda to strengthen the EU. "Within the V4, we want to participate in the debate on the future of the European Union and as the V4 Presidency; we want to bring constructive proposals that are widely accepted. V4 countries are integral part of the European Union. It is our common living area, which affords us high levels of security and prosperity. The Union is also our common home. We want EU, which is at the forefront of technological and modernisation trends, and which’s foreign policy weight corresponds with its economic size,” Minister Lajčák said. At the same time, the V4 + France meeting was an opportunity to talk about support for the integration efforts of the Western Balkan countries into the EU, which is possible only after meeting the set criteria. Other topics of the fruitful discussion of the Foreign Ministers were transatlantic cooperation and relations with China. The Ministers also discussed current issues concerning the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is currently chaired by Slovakia. In this respect, M. Lajčák presented the priorities of the Slovak Chairmanship. “We are currently facing several critical challenges - economic, social, security, and climate. We live in an extremely fast and changing world. The Slovak Republic, as part of the Euro-Atlantic value community, also with regards to its current OSCE Chairmanship, wants to contribute to an active dialogue between partners. Conflict prevention, safe future and effective multilateralism are the priorities of the Slovak Republic’s Chairmanship,” Minister Lajčák highlighted. The subject of the meeting was also development in Ukraine, where the second round of presidential elections will take place next weekend (20–21 April 2019). Ministers also discussed number of other topics that dominate the current international scene.

V4 Non-Paper on Artificial Intelligence (April 2019)
As the first ones in the European Union, V4 countries reacted to the Communication from the European Commission on artificial intelligence for Europe and during the conference Digital Day in Brussels in April 2019, they presented a non-paper on artificial intelligence (AI) describing V4 priorities. The non-paper emphasises the importance of progressive development of AI, which will offer many opportunities not just to entrepreneurs and start-ups, but also to the governments. The V4 countries wish new European regulations not only to promote innovation and competitiveness, but also to focus on the protection of citizens' data. Access to data for companies and research institutions, and the copyright issue of AI products also mentioned. The document highlights the most important and critical questions related to this technological phenomenon. Regulation has to serve the purpose of even better integration into the DSM. V4 also presented a proposal on creating European observatory for AI, which would aimed at not only innovation and competitiveness but also data protection of the EU citizens.

V4 Declaration on Cooperation in eGovernment (April 2019)
During OECD Digital Summit in Paris, V4 countries agreed to cooperate on eGovernment services. The development of eGovernment in the V4 entered a new phase. It is necessary to focus more on cross-border cooperation and services, which are crucial. New European legislation and initiatives bring new challenges and opportunities. Their potential can be effectively utilised if we cooperate. The agreed cooperation was formalised by signing the declaration establishing a commission of V4 experts.


V4 + Germany Policy Planners' meeting, 30 April 2019, Bratislava

On 30 April 2019 consultations were held between V4 and Germany policy planners in Bratislava. Participants discussed EU´s Eastern policy, Trans-Atlantic relations and the Future of Europe.


V4 + Turkey Meeting of the Foreign Ministers, 30 April 2019, Bratislava

Mr. Miroslav Lajčák hosted his V4 partners Tomáš Petříček from the Czech Republic, Péter Szijjartó from Hungary, and Marcin Przydacz, MFA Undersecretary of State for Eastern Policy from Poland, at a working meeting organized in an extended format with their Turkish counterpart, Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. The working meeting took place in Bratislava on 30 April 2019 from the initiative of the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group. Slovakia's V4 Presidency confirmed its interest in effective communication and intensive cooperation with Turkey, our ally, an important partner and a candidate country for EU membership. Ministers discussed the situation in the Middle East, migration issues and fight against terrorism. They appreciated Turkey's role in solving the migration crisis, which accommodated nearly 4 million refugees, especially from Syria, which also constitutes financial burden for Turkey despite the EU’s financial assistance. In this context, they discussed a wide range of international-political and interrelated issues related to efforts to stabilize the region, to end the ongoing conflicts and to create preconditions for peaceful development. Unlike the V4 countries, Turkey has direct experience with the region, and therefore the V4 countries have highlighted Turkey’s importance in the ongoing processes that directly or indirectly affect the stability of the European area, including the Central European area. Ministers agreed that the conflict in Syria can only end by negotiations under the auspices of the UN, while the reconstruction of Syria that will follow, must go hand in hand with its political transformation. Ministers also expressed their support for the resumption of the Middle East Peace Process in order to achieve a lasting and fair solution. Minister Lajčák i. a. believes that "only patiently seeking a political solution by international and domestic partners in a spirit of effective multilateralism can lead to future stability and sustainable solutions". Ministers also talked about the EU–Turkey relations and the country's accession process towards the EU. They agreed that the accession process is an effective tool for transformation in order to implement the Union's common values and standards. The Visegrad countries expressed their support for Turkey's accession process and supported its commitment to meet the relevant criteria.


V4 + Eastern Partnership Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in the frame of the Slovak Presidency of the V4, 6 May 2019, Bratislava

Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Mr. Miroslav Lajčák welcomed delegations of his counterparts from the V4 countries and from the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldavia and Ukraine) for a Meeting in the frame of the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group. The meeting took place symbolically on the eve of the 10th Anniversary since the program of the Eastern Partnership was adopted. Other guests attending the meeting were Teodor Viorel Melescanu, MFA Minister of Romania in the position of Chairman of the EU Council and Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for the European Neighbourhood Policy and EU enlargement negotiations. The aim of the event was to contribute to the celebrations of the 10th Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership and to initiate an open and constructive debate on its future. The participants of the meeting agreed and underlined that the EU's stable and prosperous neighbours are a strategic concern. The Eastern Partnership is a successful policy of the European Union and the V4 countries are strong supporters of continuing to keep the Eastern Partnership as one of EU’s priorities. Ministers agreed that the EU cooperation with the Eastern Partnership has produced a number of positive results; it is beneficial for both sides and stimulates the strengthening of trust between the stakeholders. At the same time, they support the idea of keeping inclusiveness, differentiation, conditionality and respect for common values in the Eastern Partnership. Its objectives must be ambitious, comprehensive and real. Ministers discussed future goals of the Eastern Partnership. In this context, they touched on the issues of people-to-people contacts, economic development, connectivity, infrastructure building, energy and regional security. V4 Foreign Ministers highlighted the need to continue to implement reforms that are the only path to stability and prosperity in the Eastern Partnership countries. In this respect, they confirmed their willingness and readiness to provide comprehensive assistance. At the end of the negotiations, V4 ministers adopted “The Visegrad Group Joint Statement on 10th Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership”.


Meeting of the Agriculture Ministers of the Visegrad Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia and France, 8–10 May 2019, Stará Lesná

The Meeting was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic. The discussions were divided into three separate sessions, each focused on one of the actual topics. The objectives of the Meeting were to encourage an active participation of the member states of the BIOEAST Initiative into the discussion on the Initiative´s future, to provide information about state of play and next steps concerning Dual Food Quality issue and inform participants about “the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe” which Slovakia will hold in 2020. During the Meeting “Common Declaration of agriculture and research ministers of the BIOEAST Member States” was signed. At last, the Presidency in the Visegrad Group was symbolically handed over to Czech Republic.


V4 + France + Germany Defence Ministers Meeting, 13 May 2019, Brussels

Slovak Minister of Defence Peter Gajdoš met with his partners from the Visegrad Group and the Ministers of Defence of France and Germany in Brussels on 13 May 2019. Historically, this was the first meeting in the V4 + FRA + DEU format. And, importantly, it took place during the Slovak V4 Presidency. Common goals in the fields of EU and NATO defence initiatives and international crisis management operations were the main themes during the talks. The Defence Ministers devoted close attention to issues relating to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), Military Mobility, and closer cooperation between the EU and NATO. Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš informed his partners about the state of play in the V4 flagship defence cooperation project – V4 EU Battlegroup, which is due to be on standby from July 2019, whereas the Visegrad Four countries have already declared their intention to stand up another V4 EU Battlegroup, which will take on a standby role in the first half of 2023. The Defence Ministers also addressed their national deployments on international crisis management missions and operations, especially in light of the fight against illegal migration and terrorism. They praised the contribution that Op EUNAVFOR MED Sophia and Op EUFOR Althea, joined by the Slovak Republic as well, have made towards this end. As part of talks, individual countries reported on their progress in implementing the NATO Readiness Initiative. The partners also discussed increasing defence spending, strengthening capabilities, and sharing experience from their engagement in NATO’s missions and activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the Baltics.


V4 Senior Body Meeting, 21–22 May 2019, Tomášov

On 21–22 May 2019, the State Secretaries of the V4 Ministries of Defence (Deputy Defence Ministers) met in ‘Senior Body’ format in Tomášov, Slovakia. This was the final meeting in this format under the Slovak V4 Presidency, before the Czech Republic takes over in July 2019. In the opening session, State Secretary of the SVK Ministry of Defence Róbert Ondrejcsák summarised the activities throughout the Slovak V4 Presidency. Then, Secretary Ondrejcsák, along with his counterparts Jakub Landovský, István Szabó and Tomasz Szatkowski, paid close attention to current NATO, EU, and V4 issues. Partners also agreed to consider a possible V4 brigade-sized contribution to the NATO Readiness Initiative. During the final session, Secretary Ondrejcsák wished his Czech colleagues the best of luck with the Czech V4 Presidency, starting from 1 July 2019, and Czech Deputy Defence Minister Jakub Landovský introduced the Czech V4 Presidency priorities. They include harmonising V4 national procurement plans, implementing the training and exercise strategy, deployments on operations in the Sahel region, and, last but not least, ensuring continuity of the V4 Battlegroup concept.

ITAPA 2019 (28 May 2019, Bratislava)
Spring ITAPA conference attended by representatives of V4, academia and expert community focused on digital transformation. The participants discussed digital trends in the Slovak Republic and the EU, eGovernment, intelligent mobility and cities, digital transformation of Slovakia by 2030, data state as well as the support of intelligent cities and regions.

International Clinical Trials Day 2019” Clinical Trials in the area of V4, 30 May 2019, Bratislava

On 30 May 2019, Slovak ICTD 2019 “International Clinical Trials Day 2019”—Clinical Trials in V4 was held in Bratislava. The meeting attended by eminent Slovak and foreign experts, provided the opportunity to exchange information in the field of clinical trials, research and development in the health sector.


V4 Heads of International Law Departments meeting 31 May 2019, Bratislava

Meeting of the V4 MFA International Law Directors took place on 31 May 2019 in Bratislava. Participants (Metod Špaček, Szabolcs Szigeti, Piotr Rychlik and Deputy Director Milan Beránek) had constructive and open discussion on numerous issues such as V4 at the UN, intra EU BITs, immunities of states (authorities, courts, etc.) – jurisdiction over foreign states/state authorities, immunities of honorary consuls, public international law aspects of Brexit, International Criminal Court, international humanitarian law strengthening, mutual legal assistance initiative, legal assistance with respect to occupied territories and the OSCE legal status.


V4 Expert Meeting on MFF 2021–2027, 31 May 2019, Bratislava

V4 experts discussed on 31 May in Bratislava the state of play and possible further development of the ongoing negotiations on the new Multiannual Financial Framework 2021–2027. The State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Mr. František Ružička has delivered a welcome address to the participants. The expert discussion focused on the possibilities of the future V4 cooperation as well as on Friends of Cohesion coordination in the months to come. The ambitious and well-balanced EU budget ensuring enough resources for the strong traditional policies, namely the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy, as well as for the new challenges, like climate change, security and migration, is in the interest of all V4 partners.


Electronic Health Care Systems in the V4 Countries, 5 June 2019, Bratislava

On 5th of June 2019, more than 100 experts gathered in Bratislava at the V4 Health Care Conference dedicated to Electronisation of Health Care in the V4 Countries. The National Health Information Center organized the Conference on the occasion of the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group. The conference brought together experts and leaders in the field of e-Health from Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary Austria, Finland, Portugal, UK and Slovak Republic to discuss the progress of eHealth in the V4 countries, including the national strategies. During the event, the common strategy of V4 countries related to other European eHealth projects was also debated.


V4 Special Operations Forces Conference, 5–6 June 2019, Training Centre Lešť

As the Slovak V4 Presidency draws to a close, the V4 Special Operations Forces Conference took place on 5–6 June 2019 at the Training Centre Lešť. The programme focused on strengthening, deepening and developing the cooperation among the V4 Special Operations Forces, projecting a common vision for the Czech V4 Presidency in the upcoming period, and the preparations for a joint extensive SOF exercise, dubbed Slovak SOF Shield, due to take place in 2022.

V4 Conference on Digital Transformation (6 June 2019, Brussels)
This event aimed to provide platform for discussion of 120 participating experts, political representatives, professionals and researchers from various sectors who have a direct experience with implementation of digital technologies in practice. The main topics were related to the political strategies on European and national level in the V4 regarding digital transformation as well as presentations of researchers and innovators from V4 countries who contribute to new knowledge and practical applications of digital technologies.

V4 Defence Ministers Meeting, 10–11 June 2019, Piešťany

Over the past year the Slovak V4 Presidency has brought several successes in the field of security and defence, both at the level of regional and global cooperation. The V4 Defence Ministers agreed on this during their final meeting held under the aegis of the Slovak V4 Presidency in Piešťany on 10 June 2019. The Visegrad Group has recorded a number of successes, such as the high readiness of its flagship project – V4 EU Battlegroup, to be on standby starting from 1 July 2019, the V4 Defence Ministers Meeting + France and Germany (V4 + FRA + DEU), and a novelty in the field of education and training – the Visegrad Military Medicine Conference (VIMIMED) 2019. Those results are reinforced by the fact that the SVK MOD has organised a total of 24 events over the period. After taking stock of the Slovak V4 Presidency achievements, partners paid special attention to current EU and NATO defence initiatives. In this connection, they took note of the progress made in individual projects of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and discussed their participation in international crisis management missions and operations and closer coordination of national positions on EU and NATO initiatives. The Joint Communiqué by V4 Ministers of Defence, reflecting the V4’s year-long efforts and outcomes, was adopted at the conclusion of the meeting.

29th meeting of the Culture Ministers of the Visegrad Group countries, 10–11 June 2019, Vígľaš

During the Slovak Presidency, the 29th meeting of the Culture Ministers of the Visegrad Group countries was held (10 – 11 June 2019, Vígľaš, Detva District), and was preceded by a meeting of experts. At their meeting, the Ministers and the Director of the International Visegrad Fund, Andor F. David, signed a new Statute of the International Visegrad Prize, and in conclusion of the meeting they approved the nominee for the International Visegrad Prize for 2018 (note: supplement following meeting of the Ministers – consulted with SR Ministry of Foreign & European Affairs). The discussion among Culture Ministers focused on the topic of Folklore – new forms of supporting traditional folk culture. The ministerial meeting thus created a space for exchanging existing experience in the form of new forms of support for traditional folk culture – folklore and folk tourism in the V4 countries. The conclusions from the meeting of experts and Culture Ministers were included in the joint Communiqué from the 29th Meeting of the V4 Group Culture Ministers.


Ministerial Meeting of the Visegrad Four, Romania and Bulgaria, 12 June 2019, Tatranská Lomnica

Promoting biodiversity, nature conservation and combating single use plastics were the main topics of the ministerial meeting of the Visegrad Four countries, Romania and Bulgaria in Tatranska Lomnica on June 12th 2019. The working meeting of the Slovak Presidency in the Visegrad group was initiated by the Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic. The Slovak delegation was led by László Sólymos, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment of the Slovak Republic. The main topic of the negotiations was combat against single use plastic waste, as well as the obligation of the EU member states to introduce a ban on the marketing of single use plastic products. This obligation to EU Member States is due from the directive on reducing the environmental impact of certain plastic products, which member states have to implement by 2021. The Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic currently has in legislative process a major amendment to the Act on Waste, which will introduce, among other, the mentioned anti-plastic measure—the ban on placing on the Slovak market single used plastic products such as disposable plastic cutlery, plates, stirrers or straws. After approval by the Slovak Government and the Parliament, the anti-plastics measure should enter in law from 1st of January 2021. According to analysts from the Ministry of the Environment, 14,000 tons of non-plastic plastic products are imported to Slovakia every year, with plastic straws, plates, cutlery and other products being a significant part of this volume. And unfortunately, they form a significant part of the waste freely disposed of even in the oldest national park in Slovakia. In contrast to other plastic products, it is easy to replace them with greener alternatives such as paper, cane or multi-use products. The next important topic of the meeting was also the discussion on the importance of pollinators for food production and the whole humanity. It is the population of bees and butterflies that belong to key pollinators that is at risk. In particular, up to 40% of bees and 30% of butterflies are at risk in Europe. Pollinators should be a common theme of the Visegrad countries, as in the EU the number of beekeepers and hives in the V4 countries is up to 30%. Country representatives agreed on the need to continue implementing effective measures and raising awareness of the extent to which our society is dependent on pollinators and how the world without bees would look.

Workshop on public procurement Secondary Policies and Implementation Experiences of Other Countries, 14 June 2019, Bratislava

On 14 June 2019 the Office for Public Procurement organized the closing SK V4 PRES workshop on public procurement titled Secondary Policies and Implementation Experiences of Other Countries. The event focused on social and green aspects of public procurement. The Office for Public Procurement will continue to participate in expert discussions on topics it emphasized during the 2018/2019 SK V4 PRES – unfair practices in public procurement, digitalisation of public procurement, social and green aspects, value for money, professionalization of public procurement, and so on. With the SK V4 PRES conclusion the presidency in the field of public procurement will rotate to Office for the Protection of Competition of the Czech Republic.


International Conference on Water Resource Protection, 17–18 June 2019, Bratislava

The international “Water Resources Protection—From Environmental Goals towards Drinking Water Quality” conference took place in Bratislava on 17–18 June 2019 under the auspices of the Slovak Visegrad Group Presidency. Its objectives are to create a platform for the exchange of experience in the preparation of planning documents and the implementation of measures to reach good status on waters and Water Framework Directive environmental objectives; in the creation of conditions for the protection of water sources, including water bodies for human consumption, and through implementing measures; in approaches to the solution, assessment and application of drinking water supply risk analyses, taking into account both the risks for the supply of drinking water to the distribution system as well as the risks to the water supply itself; and in preparation and implementation of adaptation measures with the objective to mitigate climate change impacts on the availability and quality of water sources. We hope that within this platform we will manage to improve cooperation among the environmental, agricultural and healthcare sectors in their joint efforts at providing protection of the quality and quantity of water sources as the basic prerequisite for ensuring access to drinking water and secure drinking water supplies with respect to both existing and new risks and factors contributing to water pollution and increasing climate change impacts. The Slovak Presidency is advocating for the proactive approach of the V4; such an approach draws attention to the discussion and particular steps and measures needed to retain and return water to the country, to improve drought monitoring, drought-related crisis management, and water supplies during long-term droughts.

Colloquium of Library and Information Experts of the V4+ countries, 17–19 June 2019, Bratislava

The University Library in Bratislava organised the 8th Colloquium of Library and Information Experts of the V4+ countries on the topic “Libraries for Europe – Europe for Libraries” on 17 – 19 June 2019. The event was held at the Congress Hall of the Historical Building of the National Council of the Slovak Republic in Bratislava. Representatives of the international library community also symbolically commemorated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the University Library in Bratislava.

V4 National Armaments Directors Meeting (NADs Meeting), 27 June 2019, Vígľaš

In this meeting, V4 National Armaments Directors (NADs) discussed the possibilities of cooperation in the area of defence research and technological innovation and reported on their national armaments plans and procurement programmes. NADs further discussed the reports on the activities of the V4 working groups (WGs): Surface Based Air Defence (SBAD) Modernization WG and WG for Quality. The meeting also served to evaluate the outcomes of the Slovak V4 Presidency and to pass on the presidency’s mantle to the Czech Republic in this area of cooperation.

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