From July 2017 to June 2018, Hungary is holding the rotating Presidency of the Visegrad Group for the fifth time. The importance of the Visegrad cooperation, based on the principles guiding the V4 since its founding in 1991, namely mutual trust, flexibility, and a focus on common traditions, values and interests, has been growing recently. In the previous 26 years the Visegrad Group has been actively representing regional interests, since 2004 within the European Union, while contributing to the prosperity and stability of the continent via their economic performance, cooperation aimed at facilitating connectivity, support towards the neighbouring Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership regions, as well as a responsible approach to the unprecedented migration crisis. The V4 countries constitute stability and growth in the European Union, and have the legitimate intention to contribute substantially and as equal partners to the dialogue on the future of the EU.
Efficient regional cooperation in the V4 and V4+ framework remains essential, especially in light of the changes and challenges affecting our region and the whole continent. Under the Hungarian Presidency, crucial issues such as the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, the ongoing debate on the future of the EU, including the social dimension – with significant impacts on the European competitiveness –, discussions on the EU’s post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, Cohesion Policy and Common Agricultural Policy will require constant V4 coordination and proactive presentation of common positions. Meanwhile, the Presidency will strive for reinforcing the Visegrad Group as a stabilising factor in relation to current external challenges such as the migration crisis and the volatile security environment in our southern and eastern neighbourhood.
In this context, the Hungarian Presidency will focus on areas in which the Visegrad Cooperation can deliver tangible results and added value based on specific common objectives in fields ranging from EU policies to global issues, in the following thematic structure:
The Hungarian Presidency builds on the goals and achievements of previous V4 Presidencies. The priorities also reflect a proper balance, as necessitated by current political developments and actual needs, between tasks related to the V4’s common voice in the EU, preserving the importance of traditional policies (cohesion policy and common agricultural policy), cooperation with neighbouring and other European countries, as well as V4 activities related to global partners, global issues and the further strengthening of the V4 brand.
The motto of the Hungarian Presidency, V4 Connects, reflects the significant positive impact of the Visegrad Cooperation in connecting the four countries in terms of politics, economy and culture, while also referring to the Presidency’s focus on our tasks related to connectivity: improving energy and transport links in our broader region, and working on a well-connected, innovative region ready for the digital age. Equally important is the V4 Presidency’s commitment to further improving dialogue, trust and cooperation between the V4 and other partners within the EU and globally. The V4 connects countries, governments, people, ideas and values in an inclusive and open manner. The V4 is determined to build on the power of connectivity in the broadest possible sense in order to find common solutions to challenges affecting the Visegrad Group as part of the broader European community.
The ability to renew and adapt to new realities, while preserving the basic V4 principles, has always been a strength of the Visegrad Countries and the V4 format. Accordingly, along with planned joint actions, the Hungarian Presidency stands ready to swiftly coordinate adequate joint V4 responses to unexpected developments.
The countries of the Visegrad Group have been members of the European Union for more than 13 years, and all countries succeeded in fulfilling the role of the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. The V4 is a group of Member States taking part actively and responsibly in the common decision-making processes. Ideas and suggestions of the Visegrad countries, based on common European values and interests, represent important added value to the European integration. On this basis, the Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group 2017–18 will work for a strong, well-functioning European Union with the aim to avoid further fragmentation. The functioning of the European Union should be aligned with today’s social and economic realities: first of all, instead of ‘more Europe’ we should focus on creating a ‘better and stronger Europe’, a more efficient Europe. To reach this goal, it is necessary that the European Union takes into account the opinion of every Member State and pays more attention to the voice of European citizens. After the Rome EU Summit it is necessary to protect and consolidate the achievements of the integration, with special regard to taking full use of the potential of the four fundamental freedoms, and to strengthen the role of Member States within the Union. The European Union can only be strong with the support of its citizens, and can function the best in symbiotic relation with the interests of its Member States.
It is important that the European Union focuses on economic growth, job creation and competitiveness. The synergies stemming from the positive interactions of national and EU-level solutions can ensure the appropriate cohesion, convergence and competitiveness. Political unity can be best preserved by respecting national and regional diversity, history, culture and traditions within the EU. Enhanced cooperation, fully in line with the Treaties, can in certain cases contribute to this goal.
Building on the Declaration of the Rome Summit held on 25th March 2017, the Visegrad Group considers it important to continue the discussion on the future of the European Union during the Hungarian Presidency. Concluding the series of V4 conferences on the Prime Ministers’ level discussing the future of the EU, started in Prague in June 2016, the Hungarian Presidency plans to hold a major event dedicated to this topic, with the participation of the Visegrad countries and other partners. Presenting and representing the V4 countries’ pro-European as well as realistic narrative in an open and pragmatic way is a key priority of the Hungarian V4 Presidency.
V4+ conference on the future of the European Union
In the context of the Rome Declaration, the Presidency will focus on the following principles of cooperation between EU Member States:
The Hungarian V4 Presidency will continue the coordination of positions of the Visegrad countries in several issues on the European Union’s agenda, to ensure effective joint action on various levels. Under the Hungarian Presidency, V4 countries are determined to work constructively with all partners, Member States and EU institutions, including the rotating Presidencies of the Council of the European Union. To this end, the Hungarian Presidency will
The political context of the Hungarian Presidency will be significantly influenced by negotiations on the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. In this field, our main objective is defining and representing our common interests while maintaining the unity of the EU-27. The V4 shall work for a fair and mutually beneficial agreement that adequately ensures balance between rights and obligations. One of the most important objectives of the Visegrad Group is to protect the rights and interests of citizens of the V4 countries living in the United Kingdom. Brexit cannot provide grounds for the weakening of the acquis concerning the free movement of persons or the providing of services related to the free flow of workforce in the EU-27. After Brexit, it is important to make sure that the closest possible relations between the EU and the United Kingdom are maintained. It is a key interest of the Visegrad Group that financial aspects of Brexit are settled in a satisfactory manner and the existing obligations are observed by all parties. We are interested in an agreement regulating trade and investments cooperation between the EU and the United Kingdom that is balanced, based on mutual benefits and preserves as much of the current openness as possible. It is also an important joint goal of the V4 that the United Kingdom, a NATO member and an important European and global actor, remains closely connected to the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy including the Common Security and Defence Policy.
The Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group is open to dialogue and joint projects based on mutual interests with countries of the EU, with special regard to neighbouring countries, as well as other European and global partners.
Germany is one of the key partners for the Visegrad Group. For the sake of increasing European competitiveness, facilitating digital economic transformation and enhancing the stability and security of Europe, the Hungarian Presidency supports consultations in the V4+Germany format. The Hungarian Presidency is ready to organise a summit of the Heads of Government of the Visegrad countries and Germany, in line with the intention of the parties declared at the V4+Germany summit in Warsaw in August 2016.
The Hungarian Presidency aims to strengthen the cooperation of the Visegrad Group with Austria and Slovenia, partners with which the Visegrad Four can effectively coordinate positions on numerous issues such as migration, security, the stability of the Western Balkans and EU enlargement, digitalisation and innovation. In the field of defence policy, the Hungarian Presidency will strive to strengthen cooperation in the V4+Slovenia and V4+CEDC (Central European Defence Cooperation) formats, focusing on Slovenia’s potential contribution to the V4 EU Battlegroup; and, in the case of CEDC (building also on Hungary’s Presidency in the CEDC starting in January 2018) with an emphasis on capacity development and coordinating positions on managing the migration crisis, also taking into account the role of armed forces.
The Hungarian Presidency will continue the effective high-level political dialogue between the V4 and the Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB8), in cooperation with the Swedish Presidency of the NB8, particularly on topics such as the Eastern Partnership, regional security, energy and transport infrastructure.
In addition, the Presidency will promote consultations with the Baltic countries, to discuss joint positions on EU matters with a special regard to the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework and to identify further possibilities of cooperation. The Hungarian Presidency also aims to further strengthen V4+Baltic cooperation in the field of defence, building on the rotating V4 military presence in the Baltic States during 2017, as well as on examining the possibilities for a potential joint V4 contribution to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.
In order to facilitate mutually beneficial cooperation after the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, the Hungarian Presidency will take steps to prepare the framework of post-Brexit V4+UK relations, while respecting the principle of EU-27 unity.
The Hungarian Presidency will continue the cooperation of the Visegrad Group plus Romania and Bulgaria in the field of spatial planning and territorial development, in line with the six states’ ministerial declaration and strategic document adopted in 2014 during the previous Hungarian V4 Presidency. The Presidency aims to coordinate positions as regards the regional dimension of cohesion policy.
With regards to cooperation in the field of agriculture and environment, the aim of the Hungarian Presidency is to extend the existing V4+Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania cooperation to Croatia as well. In the field of water management, the Presidency intends to involve also Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia in the ongoing V4+Bulgaria+Romania cooperation (see details in section ‘Cooperation in the field of agriculture, environment and water issues’ in Chapter 3).
Building on synergies between the 2017 Hungarian Presidency of the Danube Region Strategy and the 2017–18 Hungarian V4 Presidency, the Presidency aims to stimulate cooperation between existing and planned macro-regional strategies. Moreover, the Presidency will look into synergies with other formats of regional cooperation in which all V4 countries participate
Since the beginning of the mass migration crisis in 2015, the Visegrad Four have assumed a responsible position towards this complex problem and stood up for a comprehensive answer to the situation, with an adequate focus on stemming migration and underlining security as a key aspect of the future solution. This also applies to the V4’s joint action for the protection of the Schengen borders and thus the whole of Europe, representing V4 common positions in the political debates, as well as supporting countries on the Western Balkans route and crisis regions in countries of origin. In order to strengthen European security and stability, the goal of the Hungarian Presidency is to continue, where appropriate, the above-mentioned activities, identify further topics of possible V4 cooperation related to migration and broaden acceptance of related V4 positions within the EU. The EU should be capable of giving comprehensive and effective answers to the challenges of migration. Since migration is one of the most pressing and important issues on the agenda of the EU, decisions which determine the migration policy of the EU and its future asylum system must be taken at the European Council level by consensus. The Presidency will advocate the position that stemming migration must begin outside the EU’s borders. In order to effectively represent our joint interests in the context of CEAS negotiations, including the future shape of the Dublin Regulation, regional coordination is also important. The V4 strongly opposes any proposal on introducing a mandatory and automatic distribution system in line with the corrective distribution system in the Dublin proposal. Commitment towards aspects of humanitarian aid and development assistance in the context of the migration crisis is also an important part of the V4’s complex approach to migration (related activities are detailed in Chapter 4 ‘Global Visegrad’.)
The main goals of the Hungarian Presidency related to migration are the following:
The internal stability guaranteed by the regulatory environment is of utmost importance for Europe, thus during the Hungarian presidency of the V4 a strong emphasis will be put on questions related to the everyday life of citizens. Enhancing legal aid and victim support, and arranging the life of families with international connection by means of regulation are essential for ensuring legal certainty.
In the field of justice cooperation, the Hungarian Presidency will facilitate high-level consultations and the sharing of expertise and good practices in the V4 and V4+ format in the field of victim protection and legal aid.
The Presidency initiates high-level dialogue in connection with the 2201/2003/EC Regulation concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, and its revision.
Regular dialogue between the Parliaments of the V4 countries represents an important dimension of Visegrad Cooperation. In this framework, the Hungarian Presidency will provide the necessary fora for discussing cooperation possibilities and current European developments, supporting endeavours of the Presidency.
The Hungarian Presidency supports the successful functioning of the International Visegrad Fund, the V4’s common institution working for strengthening the relations in the V4 region. The Presidency will initiate the renewal of the Fund’s mobility scholarship schemes, including providing possibilities for researchers and start-ups. The Presidency will encourage result-oriented projects related to entrepreneurship and innovation. Another goal of the Presidency is to stimulate the creation of V4 expert networks and enhance strengthening relations between business actors and associations, based also on the experiences of the Think Visegrad – V4 Think Tank Platform. Concerning the Fund’s activities related to the Eastern Partnership and the Western Balkans, the Hungarian Presidency plans to continue effective dialogue with current and potential external donor partners of the Fund, with a view to improving and possibly widening the cooperation.
Building upon the rich historic, cultural heritage and the diverse relations of the Visegrad Four, the Presidency’s aim is to strengthen regional cohesion by bringing the societies closer, as well as to jointly promote values of the V4 region externally. To this end, intra-V4 projects will be launched and several cultural events will be held worldwide.
In relation to the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018, organised in partial overlapping with the Hungarian V4 Presidency, the Presidency aims to promote the Year in the V4 region, including the presentation of sites in the V4 region awarded with the European Heritage Label, sites already on, or nominated to, the UNESCO World Heritage List, as well as the promotion of the region’s architectural heritage.
Furthermore, the Hungarian Presidency will pay special attention to V4 consultations on current issues of cultural diplomacy. The Presidency will initiate talks on the following issues: EU financial resources in the field of culture; EU strategy for international cultural relations; the role of culture and creative industry; V4 participation in the reconstruction of destroyed monuments in the Middle East; utilising the Central-European Cultural Platform (PCCE; V4+Austria) in strengthening the cultural dimension of the Eastern Partnership. In the field of cultural diplomacy, Hungary also continues to suggest that the V4 countries, too, support the establishment of the International Museum on Communism in Washington, D.C., initiated by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
The Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group provides an opportunity to the V4 to exchange experiences and jointly present their achievements regarding the protection of national, ethnic and religious minorities and their cultural heritage, including the preservation of Jewish cultural heritage, thus also underlining the region’s commitment to Europe’s cultural and religious values as well as to fighting anti-Semitism.
The Presidency will continue V4 discussion on higher education.
Regarding youth and family policy, the Hungarian Presidency concentrates on the sharing of expertise and good practices of the V4 countries as well as the discussion on common challenges.
The Presidency will hold consultations on nutrition and healthcare issues, the development of the public healthcare system and disability policies, to facilitate the exchange of experience on results and current challenges. Long-term V4 cooperation on e-health and fair pricing will be further encouraged.
The Presidency will support discussion on the diaspora policies of the Visegrad countries, to facilitate the sharing of experience and best practices and joint thinking on tackling the related social challenges faced by the V4.
In the field of sport which has an important role in strengthening intra-regional social relations, the Hungarian Presidency will, inter alia, support the ongoing V4 initiatives and facilitate projects (e.g. in the framework of the Visegrad Fund) related to sports.
Furthermore, the Hungarian Presidency will organise the annual V4 Good Government Forum.
The Visegrad Four, as a group of countries traditionally committed to supporting the Western Balkans both in European political fora and in the form of joint projects, will actively facilitate initiatives aimed at strengthening the region’s stability, security and economy under the Hungarian Presidency. This is especially important in light of today’s growing challenges affecting the region. The key to the stability of the Western Balkans is the Euro-Atlantic integration of the region’s countries, therefore supporting the EU and NATO enlargement processes, including related efforts of the countries involved, is a highly important goal of the Presidency. Although enlargement is one of the EU’s most efficient policies, it is receiving limited focus amid current problems dividing Europe. The Commission’s Enlargement Package, published in November 2016, will not be followed by a new assessment in 2017. Therefore, assessing the enlargement process with the participation of the Western Balkan countries under the Hungarian V4 Presidency will be crucial.
Concerning the Eastern Partnership (EaP), for the Visegrad countries it is vital that stabilisation and modernisation in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood becomes irreversible and gains further momentum. Therefore, the Visegrad Group remains a staunch supporter of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy as a key tool to foster this process. Despite the existing challenges, the Hungarian Presidency is committed to keeping the EaP high on the EU agenda and will strive to reach its full potential. Taking this into account, the Visegrad Countries wish to contribute to a successful Eastern Partnership Summit in November 2017, in line with the goals of the Estonian EU Presidency. First and foremost, we have to endeavour to present a clear perspective to our partners regarding their aspirations concerning the future of their relations with the EU and offer a European perspective for the interested partners. In order to maintain and strengthen the partners’ commitment to necessary reforms, coming up with a forward-looking agenda, concrete deliverables and new objectives at the summit are crucial. A productive summit would also enhance the credibility of the EU’s policy towards Eastern Partner countries. Close cooperation between EU institutions, Member States and our Eastern Partners is important during the implementation of the Eastern Partnership policy. The Hungarian Presidency emphasises the importance of synergies between EaP projects of the EU and the V4, such as cross-border cooperation, connectivity agenda (including common infrastructure projects). The V4 will pay attention to the human rights situation in the EaP partner countries.
As regards Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, consolidating the achievements and implementing the necessary reforms arising from the Association Agreements should remain in focus. It should be thoroughly analysed how the EU can support and subsequently evaluate progress in the processes which have been already started, especially the transformation of the economy, the fight against corruption, public administration reform and strengthening civilian security which should contribute to enhancing resilience of those countries against security threats. V4 stands ready to further support the activities in the framework of NATO cooperation with Ukraine (Comprehensive Assistance Package), Georgia (Substantial NATO-Georgia Package, New, Practical Ways to Intensify Efforts, Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative), and Moldova (DCBI), having in mind the transformational potential of these programmes. Fostering connectivity with special emphasis on energy, infrastructure and cross-border cooperation contributes significantly to stability and economic development, as well as mobility between the EU and our Eastern Partners. Eastern Partnership policy should focus equally on Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Armenia in the future. Any genuine commitment coming from these countries to build closer relations will be supported by the Visegrad countries. With the support of the V4, the commitment of Belarus to building closer relations with the EU and strengthening trade and economic cooperation should be maintained. Our strategic relations with Azerbaijan should be further developed through strong treaty-based ties with special focus on the energy sector. Therefore, swift progress in the negotiations on a new EU–Azerbaijan framework agreement is particularly important. Concerning Armenia, a tailor-made approach should be followed, respecting the country’s foreign policy decisions. V4 should encourage Yerevan and EU partners to smoothly ratify and implement the EU–Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement after its signature.
V4 cooperation should be more efficient and visible within the framework of international organizations dealing with security issues. NATO remains the guarantor of security, credible collective defence and deterrence in the Central European Region. NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence on the Eastern Flank will improve the Alliance’s defence and deterrence posture in this region while providing security to all Allies. The difficult security environment requires NATO as well as the European Union to continue efforts to adapt its policies, capabilities and instruments and to further enhance their cooperation. Preserving the unity of positions, coherence of actions, and improving cooperation among our countries should be at the heart of our endeavours within the framework of NATO and the EU.
In accordance with the Action Plan of the Visegrad Group Defence Cooperation (July 2016–June 2018) the Hungarian Presidency will pursue the following areas of cooperation:
The Hungarian Presidency will seek to update the Action Plan of the Visegrad Group Defence Cooperation (July 2016–June 2018).
In order to reach the above goals, the Presidency will organise the following events:
Expert level events:
The Hungarian Presidency places special emphasis on the coordination of V4 standpoints in every area of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.
In the field of cyber security, the Presidency’s goal is to strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructure, especially with the aim of revealing and averting risks and attacks coming from the cyberspace. The Hungarian Presidency will carry on the cooperation between cyber security organisations and network security centres of V4 countries, for which information-sharing on incidents is indispensable. In cooperation with the rotating Chair of the Central European Cyber Security Platform, the Hungarian Presidency will organise expert meetings and joint exercises and trainings related to incident management. The Presidency also plans to hold consultations aiming to formulate joint V4 positions on current topics of the EU’s agenda, in particular on the implementation of the Directive on Security of Network and Information Systems (NIS), and the revision of the Cybersecurity Strategy of the EU.
The Visegrad Group needs to be committed to the further improvement of joint actions in the fight against terrorism, with special regard to the EU-level implementation of PNR (Passenger Name Record) systems, and the intensification of information-sharing in the V4 and V4+ frameworks. In order to reach these goals, the aim of the Presidency is, while fully respecting data protection rules, to actively contribute with all V4 countries to further work at the EU-level on interoperability of systems and databases. The use of biometric identification in the asylum procedures and as regards border control should be intensified among the V4 and V4+ partners. The application of this method is also worth considering in relation to international public transportation.
Based on the V4 non-paper on enhancing cooperation against terrorism, signed in Prague on 19 January 2016, the Presidency plans to take joint actions in the following fields:
The Hungarian Presidency will strengthen V4 cooperation in the field of disaster management, concentrating on risk management, disaster prevention, increasing resilience and consequence management.
In the spirit of continuity, the 2017/2018 Hungarian Presidency will build on the programmes of previous V4 Presidencies including the Hungarian Presidency in 2013-14, setting the strengthening of the North–South interconnections as a priority. Continuing the work in relation to infrastructure development connected to the North–South Gas Corridor, the completion of the corridor remains to be a priority of the Hungarian Presidency. In line with aspirations of the Energy Union, finishing the corridor would bring significant benefits in terms of the security of supply and market integration, not only for the V4 but for the whole Central European region, while also serving as a good example for successful regional cooperation. Another goal of the Presidency is the joint discussion of current energy and climate policy issues on the EU agenda from a regional perspective.
Building on the achievements of the CESEC Ministerial Meeting held in Budapest in September 2016, the Hungarian Presidency will organise high-level energy diplomacy meetings and business forums to enhance the political focus on the completion of the North-South Gas Corridor, giving new impulses to the expansion of ongoing infrastructural and market development projects and also opening northern and southern gates for the global energy market.
à Meeting of V4+ Ministers of Foreign Affairs (preferably in the format of V4+Western Balkans and V4+Eastern Partnership), with the participation of the European Institutions
à Promoting LNG as an available option for gas diversification in Central Europe by V4+ joint appearance of Ambassadors-at-Large for energy security at the Budapest LNG Summit in October 2017
In terms of energy policy, the Hungarian Presidency plans to achieve progress in areas of cooperation which are in line with the goals of the Energy Union, closely linked to the dimensions of energy security and internal energy market and important for all Visegrad countries. Specific goals of the Hungarian Presidency are:
In order to meet these policy goals, the Hungarian Presidency will organise the following main events related to the field of energy:
In the field of climate policy, the Hungarian Presidency sets the following goals:
Coordination meetings (one per semester) of high-level officials responsible for climate policy and environmental protection and/or finance and/or development to discuss the topics mentioned above and examine regional possibilities to participate in or to provide proposals of climate assistance projects (an addition to V4 coordination meetings before Environment Council meetings)
In the field of transport, the main priorities of the Hungarian Presidency are the strengthening of the major North–South transport connections, the improving of the permeability of borders between the V4 countries and the deepening of cooperation between V4 transport experts.
The Presidency will continue the consultations of transport experts on current EU legislation, especially in the following topics:
‘V4 Rail Roundtable’ could serve as a platform to establish common Council positions for expert discussions on transport. Increasing the competitiveness of rail freight transport along the North–South corridors is a strategic interest for our region, in order to exploit railway infrastructure developments. It is important for the Hungarian Presidency to contribute to utilising synergies between the Hungarian V4 Presidency and the 2017 Hungarian Presidency of the Danube Region Strategy.
For a successful cooperation, the sharing of experiences and best practices among V4+CEE enterprises dealing with terminals, railway freight transportation and railway operators is highly important.
It is a priority for the Hungarian V4 Presidency to jointly prepare for the post-2020 EU financial period, building also on the High-Level Working Group (HLWG) established during the 2013-2014 Hungarian Presidency. During the negotiations concerning the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, our goal is the harmonisation of V4 positions, and the incorporation of CEE viewpoints since preserving the key role of the transport sector is a common interest of the Visegrad Group, serving the strengthening of the countries’ economy.
It is necessary to map the railway connections of the Visegrad region. An assessment was already prepared following the announcement of the 2013 Action Plan; the Hungarian Presidency aims to foster the reviewing of the results of the assessment and to define possible development directions which may be harmonised with the V4 countries’ strategies on transport development. Based on this, it will be necessary to facilitate, via expert consultations, the removal of technical and legislative obstacles, which is necessary for unblocking transport bottlenecks. The Hungarian Presidency will provide an opportunity to summarize V4 experiences and discuss ways of cooperation.
During the Hungarian Presidency the V4 will endeavour to further develop cooperation on inland waterway transport. Rivers are important elements of international, multimodal transport corridors as they provide low emission, economically feasible and easier access to the V4 and EU markets.
The V4 continues to consider the Three Seas Initiative as a possible channel of political cooperation between the Visegrad Group and other countries of the Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea region, providing forum to discuss, inter alia, transport and energy issues.
Further objectives of the Hungarian Presidency in the field of transport:
– the sharing of continuously updated timetables between the countries;
– examining the possibilities of establishing a common tariff system including cross-border public services;
Increasing the competitiveness of Central Europe is a key priority for the Hungarian Presidency, with special regard to meeting the challenges of the digital age. This chapter features those important current priorities and objectives of the V4, which are related to the broader topic of competitiveness.
Competitiveness in the EU: Multiannual Financial Framework, Cohesion Policy, Agricultural Policy, Social Dimension, Digital Skills
The V4 countries are interested in an economically stable European Union. In order to ensure sustainable economic growth, the competitiveness of the Union must be improved. This requires a proper investment environment, which favours job creation and equal accessibility of digital technologies and skilled labour, indispensable for the countries’ prosperity. To effectively represent V4 interests in the European Union, the Hungarian Presidency will further strengthen cooperation concerning economy-related EU issues such as the Economic and Monetary Union, the Capital Markets Union, the Single Market including the Digital Single Market, the banking union, taxation and customs, as well as the joint fight against recently spreading protectionist tendencies in some Member States. Respecting the competences of Member States and competitiveness are key aspects in the debate on the social dimension. The question of social benefits cannot be handled without taking into consideration the aspects of competitiveness and economic policy.
Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF)
According to the current MFF regulation the European Commission should present its proposals for the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework by 1 January 2018. However, based on information from the Commission, the publication of the substantial MFF proposals might be delayed due to uncertainties related to handling the financial aspects of Brexit, until the end of the first half of 2018. As the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations will influence the future MFF greatly, it is important to maintain in this process the proper financing of policies set out by the Treaties including the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. Therefore, Hungary is ready to take a leading role in harmonising the positions of the V4 and other like-minded countries.
Cohesion policy contributes significantly to the economic performance and convergence of the V4 and the EU. The cohesion report will be published by the Commission after the June 2017 Cohesion Forum; the presentation of the Commission’s proposal concerning post-2020 regulation is expected by 2018. The Hungarian Presidency aims to respond, also by a joint ministerial declaration in the V4+Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia format, to EU-level developments and represent the region’s interest.
Common Agricultural Policy
The European Commission is planning to present its plans concerning the new framework of the Common Agricultural Policy for the years 2021–2027 in autumn 2017. Jointly discussing the proposals is an important goal of the Hungarian Presidency.
According to the Visegrad Group’s position, competitiveness and economic convergence are key aspects in the debate about the social dimension. Only sustainable economic growth resulting in real economic convergence can contribute to social welfare, the most important conditions of which are
Hungary supports that the related negotiations focus on the competitiveness of the whole EU and the state of the Internal Market. Structural reforms tailored to national specificities are the most effective in reaching the goals mentioned above. Compulsory social standards can be counterproductive by undermining convergence based on improving competitiveness.
The Hungarian Presidency will initiate joint V4 action concerning the prolongation of the Swiss Contribution. It is a joint V4 priority to reach an agreement concerning releasing the post-2017 funding of the Swiss Contribution as early as possible. The Presidency aims to ensure the effective representation of regional interests in this context.
It is a key priority of the Hungarian Presidency to contribute to improving the competitiveness of the V4 and the EU, and to discuss important topics such as Industry 4.0 issues of the reindustrialisation of Europe and other current EU topics related to economy and economic policy.
A key element of the success of any Industry 4.0 or other digitalization initiative is the availability of digitally competent labour force. Hence, cooperation on the development of the digital labour market is also of high priority. Owing to the fact that the digitalization exempts civil servants and civil officials, it is essential to enhance international cooperation and training programmes in order to improve the effectiveness and competitiveness of public administration
Further V4 cooperation is important as regards the proposed amendment to the Posting of Workers Directive (96/71/EC).
The Presidency aims to discuss the strengthening of cooperation in the field of labour policy cooperation inside the V4 and with the EU, concerning especially the mutual challenges on the labour market (Brexit, the free movement of workers and services).
Concerning undeclared work, the Presidency supports the exchange of information, the sharing of good practices, the presentation of solutions and the legal background in the V4 countries, and the strengthening of V4 representation of interests in the European Platform tackling undeclared work.
Concerning the field of occupational safety and health, the aim of the Presidency is to coordinate and exchange the good practices in the following areas: the effects of improving working condition on competitiveness; the role of the state in supporting SMEs in providing safety in the workplace.
The Hungarian Presidency encourages V4 cooperation in the field of the healthcare industry and organises a thematic forum with the participation of V4 senior managers and experts responsible for the healthcare industry. Goals are to strengthen the cooperation tied to V4 health economy and Industry 4.0, to take joint action concerning process control, to cooperate in the fields of healthcare robotics and nanorobotics, to foster joint R+D to create innovative products. Regarding the latter, coordinated export and trade activities are also to be proposed by the Presidency.
The Hungarian Presidency will initiate cooperation between the V4 public procurement authorities.
The V4 should assume a greater role for the V4 in fostering and setting the agenda in international cooperation in the field of digitalisation. This, as well as the follow-up on the Warsaw Declaration on mutual cooperation in research, innovation and digital affairs, signed on March 28th 2016 by the Prime Ministers of the Visegrad countries, will be facilitated inter alia by organising a major related conference during the Presidency, providing a platform for defining new regional tasks and activities.
In order to enhance the V4 countries’ digital competitiveness and the implementation of the EU Digital Agenda, the Hungarian Presidency supports creating a regional dimension of cooperation in the field of digitalisation, which can supplement national and EU-level strategies. Digitalisation is, and will remain in the forthcoming decades, the main driving force of competitiveness. Only a ‘Digital Visegrad’ can maintain and improve the region’s competitiveness and economic strength. To this end, the V4 should also work together to address unjustified barriers to free flow of data such as data localisation that throttle economies of scale and thwart the growth of V4-based companies that should compete on the European and global level.
Following the practice of former Presidencies of the recent years, the Hungarian Presidency is also planning to organise a V4+USA expert dialogue on policy issues concerning the emerging new technologies, and industry development plans. A separate discussion could take place to handle the concerns of tax collection being undeterministic for international companies selling virtual goods like advertisements or cloud services and for non-traditional, sharing economy business models.
The immediate and fundamental digitalisation of our education systems is inevitable in terms of the chances of emerging generations on the labour market. The Hungarian Presidency encourages all initiatives in the region that are aimed at improving digital skills. Digital skills are becoming the most important differentiators on the labour market. Competitiveness and employability depends on acquired digital skills. It must be a shared goal for V4 countries to set up a common understanding and description of digital skills, based on the Digital Competence Framework to achieve interoperability and mobility. However, it is a mutual interest to parallel develop digital industries in V4 countries to provide job opportunities to reduce brain drain.
The strengthening of the region’s ability to attract talents is a key factor in building start-up ecosystems. Therefore, it is the goal of the Presidency to encourage the development and strengthening of a modern, internationalised higher education sector, the launching of educational and training programmes in the sphere of Industry 4.0 focusing on the technological fields of data sciences and artificial intelligence, thus contributing also to intra-V4 mobility.
Key priority is given to the elaboration of EIT Digital Professional School Programs, and to student mobility building on them, as well as the creation of university-based spin-off/start-up companies and the speeding-up of accelerator programmes strengthening the innovation ecosystem of the V4 region.
The Hungarian V4 Presidency initiates the establishment of a ‘V4 Smart Platform’. Serving the comfort of the citizens and helping the public administration, the aim of the platform is the creation of interoperable e-services that can be jointly introduced in V4 countries. As a framework system supporting these services, the Platform can foster meeting public demand by the construction of a unified, cross-border digital space based on reciprocity.
Another goal of the Hungarian Presidency is to deepen intra-V4 relations in the field of e-commerce by developing the cooperation between postal services.
The Hungarian Presidency will coordinate the work of the Horizon 2020 V4 Task Force and continue the discussions with a view to facilitating a more successful Central European participation in the Horizon 2020 tenders. The Task Force’s main goal is to draw a V4 standpoint that is harmonized with the H2020 Programme, to define common interests. This allows taking a joint position during the Programme’s half-time evaluation, and also during the formation of the next EU R+I Framework Programme. Selected issues negotiated in the Task Force: analysis of the initiatives on widening participation, identification of the biggest challenges for increasing the share of EU–13 Member States in Horizon 2020; suggestions on the contents and instruments of the next EU Framework Programme (e.g. the amount of financial allocation, synergy with EU structural funds, thematic priorities); possibilities of opening up closed research/innovation networks; strengthening the participation in wide-scope projects.
To discuss the possibilities and the practical realisation of a V4 R+D initiative, the Presidency organises a V4 R+D+I conference (autumn 2017).
The Hungarian Presidency will continue the ongoing science & technology cooperation with the Republic of Korea, Japan and the USA, including the organisation of joint scientific and innovation workshops and supporting common R+D programmes and projects. The Presidency continues the V4+Korea Knowledge Sharing Program whose common V4 topic for 2017-2018 is SME innovation.
Hungary will assume an active role in implementing the V4 Start-up and Innovation Memorandum, including the reinvigorating of the work of the V4 Innovation Task Force by involving experts and business actors. The goal of the Task Force will be to share the experiences of innovative national programmes supporting SMEs/start-ups; to share already established good practices in the field of regional cooperation; to realise joint promotion and network-building actions; and to facilitate the joint participation on workshops, start-up events, and fairs organised abroad.
Taking into account the last Memorandum signed during the November 2016 Budapest Digital Summit, the Hungarian Presidency initiates the organisation of thematic workshops in the V4+Austria+Germany+Slovenia format, with the joint participation of start-up associations and angel investors of the region. The aim is to present the activities of regional start-ups to as wide of a circle of potential investors as it is possible. It is highly important to put industrial start-ups into position, and to strengthen B2B relations.
Recalling, inter alia, the Warsaw Declaration of 28 March 2017, in order to facilitate cooperation among V4 start-ups, the Hungarian Presidency’s goal is to encourage the building of a regional start-up ecosystem with the help of intra-V4 start-up mobility, with the possible involvement of the International Visegrad Fund. The Hungarian Presidency will launch the event series ‘V4 Start-up and Innovation Days FastLane’ to discuss the role of the state in developing a V4 innovation ecosystem and the measures to encourage the development, events will be organised in the four countries in four topics throughout the series—this all is aimed at avoiding brain-drain affecting the region.
In order to help convergence between the activities of digital start-ups as important economic actors in the V4 region and current demands of large companies, the Hungarian Presidency will organise events focused on research and development, with the potential involvement of Google.
Within the framework of the International Visegrad Fund’s Strategic Grants, the Hungarian Presidency will support the 2018 instalment of the strategic conference think.BDPST— Connect to the Future on innovation and new technologies, in cooperation with governmental and non-governmental actors.
At the community level, the European Commission’s ‘Urban Agenda for the EU’ Program brings together all activities of the ‘Smart City’ development activities that use various digital technologies in creative ways. The Hungarian Presidency wishes to encourage a more active V4 participation in the work of the Urban Agenda, and takes the lead in giving impulses to the cooperation.
Hungarian Presidency supports the successful operation of the Visegrad Patent Institute, a joint V4 institution set up in Budapest in 2016, in terms of promoting its activities and achievements.
Concerning Benchlearning, the Hungarian Presidency supports the dialogue among V4 national employment services and institutions.
In the past few years, EU Member States have faced significant challenges in the field of agriculture. Farmers had to face animal illnesses causing epidemics of magnitudes unseen before. The extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change have also added to farmer’s losses.
The conclusions of the talks on Brexit influence greatly the future of the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU—as its consequence, a completely new configuration will be created.
Europe needs a Common Agricultural Policy that can provide effective solutions to tackling different crises, resulting in the European agricultural sector and food industry’s ability to remain a competitive player on the global level.
The European Commission will present its proposals on the Post-2020 Common Agricultural Policy in the autumn of 2017. Jointly representing the regional interests concerning the future of the Common Agricultural Policy and Brexit is also a high-priority goal of the Hungarian Presidency.
The aim of the Presidency is to broaden the already existing V4+Slovenia+Bulgaria+Romania cooperation in the field of agriculture and environmental issues with Croatia.
Besides the coordination on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy, the Hungarian Presidency’s further goals for cooperation are:
As regards water issues, the Hungarian Presidency, having regard to the review of the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) due in 2019, continues the formulation of the V4+Bulgaria+Romania joint position, initiated under the Polish Presidency, in order to appropriately represent the regional interests of Central Europe on the EU forum. In the field of cooperation in water management, the Hungarian Presidency plans to extend the existing V4+2 framework to Austria, Slovenia Croatia and the Baltic states, namely in the following fields:
The Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group continues the activities of the expert groups that are taking actions against financial frauds, and the accomplishments started by the 2016–2017 Polish Presidency of the Visegrad Group.
In relation to the topic of women in business, the Presidency’s aim is to discuss the concrete possibilities of moving forward (instead of quotas, strengthening the participation of women in the economy by organising the society appropriately, the creation of family-friendly economic environment), and to establish a professional platform for women in business in the Central-Eastern European region (international network-building).
The aim of the Hungarian Presidency is to develop the financial consciousness of the citizens of the region, and to help and encourage the acquisition of financial knowledge. Our goal is to share the experiences and to exchange the best practices of national programmes.
Concerning the protection of consumers’ interests, the Hungarian Presidency initiates negotiations and the sharing of best practices concerning measures related to consumer protection in e-commerce. In this field, the Presidency highlights especially the practices concerning the right of withdrawal from the side of consumers and enterprises, and between consumers (C2C). Besides, the Presidency’s aim is also to consult on alternative methods (including online forms) of consumer disputes.
The Hungarian V4 Presidency supports cooperation with global partners, inter alia in the framework of the V4+ formats included in this chapter, with a view to further improving the region’s visibility and possibilities in terms of foreign policy, economy and tourism.
The past few years have shown that events in the Middle East and North Africa directly affect Europe and thus the V4 region. Having this in mind, the Hungarian Presidency will organise the first-ever V4+ summit with Egypt, an important regional actor with a stabilising role, and with Israel, a key economic and political partner for the V4 countries. The summits will be aimed at discussing global and regional challenges as well as possibilities of cooperation in the future.
In the formats of V4+Japan and V4+Republic of Korea, the Hungarian Presidency will continue the successful political dialogue on foreign and security policy, the cooperation in the field of R+D, and the organisation of joint thematic events. Concerning the V4+Republic of Korea format, the Presidency will continue the sharing of Central European expertise in political transition, as well as the implementation of the Knowledge Sharing Program in the field of innovation. The Presidency will also facilitate V4 discussion on the North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programme and will promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
The Hungarian Presidency aims to strengthen V4+USA ties under the new US administration.
Within the framework of the V4’s global activity, the Hungarian V4 Presidency initiates high-level consultation in the V4+Central Asia format.
The Presidency continues the regular consultations at the level of Political Directors, especially with the following partners: countries of the Western Balkans, Turkey, USA, Canada, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Japan, China and the Republic of Korea.
The Hungarian Presidency initiates foreign policy planning dialogue in the format of V4+African Union to discuss Africa’s situation and its impacts on European security and stability.
The Hungarian Presidency supports the joint examination of opportunities for V4 cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa, e.g. in the fields of accessing EU development funds and jointly realising development projects. The Presidency also facilitates consultations on the V4 countries’ policies towards Africa.
The Hungarian Presidency contributes to the common thinking on potential areas of cooperation with the Pacific Alliance, one of the most dynamic regional organisations of the Latin American region.
The Hungarian Presidency supports the mitigation of the humanitarian challenges in the countries afflicted by the migration crisis as countries of origin, and will facilitate the discussion of potential common V4 projects. The main related goals of the Hungarian Presidency are: consultation on the role of V4 countries as emerging donors in international development; consultation about financial aspects of international development and humanitarian aid policy; providing assistance to forcibly displaced people living in and outside of refugee camps, especially in the region of origin; improving living conditions in countries of origin so as to prevent further migration crises; examining possible common steps in tackling root causes of migration (e.g. unemployment, lack of education and infrastructure); protection of persecuted Christian minorities.
The Hungarian Presidency supports the coordination of V4 positions and will examine possibilities of joint statements in international fora (e.g. UN, CoE).
The Hungarian Presidency aims to promote the Visegrad Group outside the region in terms of culture, economy and tourism.
To further strengthen the V4 brand, the Hungarian Presidency will support holding V4-focussed business promotion events and side-events worldwide.
Budapest will be the first V4 capital to host the World Export Development Forum (24–26 October 2017), a gathering of export development experts, politicians and business people, which will also provide opportunities to promote the V4.
Within the framework of the successful V4 cooperation in the field of tourism, the goal of the Hungarian Presidency is twofold: to support adaptation to the new trends of tourism (the increased value of security, the growing role of social economy, the spread of innovative marketing tools); to strengthen and present the V4 brand in source markets, using an experience-based approach. Among the target markets of V4 tourism cooperation an emphasis will be put on the USA, Canada, potential source countries of Latin America, Russia, the former CIS countries, and the countries of Southeast Asia. Furthermore, the intention is to ensure a stronger and more focused marketing presence in China, India, the Republic of Korea and Japan, countries generating the most dynamic tourist traffic to the V4 region. After defining the consumer segments in our source markets more accurately, the Presidency proposes compiling and promoting experience packages for longer stays (7–10–14 days) that also present the many faces of the V4. An important objective of the Hungarian Presidency is to further boost the intra-Visegrad tourist traffic. The main tool for this is the formation of joint product and package offers.