Activity of the Polish presidency of the Visegrad Group in 2004/2005
Poland assumed presidency of the Visegrad Group immediately after the accession to the European Union of the four states affiliated in that regional grouping. The Republic of Poland, the Republic of Hungary, the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic, as fully-fledged members of the European Union, clearly committed themselves - in the Declaration of Kroměříž
- to continue the Visegrad cooperation. The past year has confirmed the legitimacy of that decision - since enlargement of the EU has enhanced the role of regional groupings. Under the Polish presidency, the Visegrad Group has consolidated its position, becoming a recognizable trademark of Central Europe. Externally, especially in the Community environment, it continued promotional undertakings, upgraded consultative mechanisms and intensified lobbying efforts. The four participants in the Visegrad cooperation were guided in their efforts by the criteria of effectiveness and complementarity in relation to the EU system. As an expression of their responsibility for stabilization in the region, the Visegrad Group states supported the democratic transformations in Ukraine. That was the first manifestation of undertakings by the new member states addressed to a direct neighbor of the EU. It can be expected that the ongoing transfer of experience relating to systemic and economic transformations will continue under the presidency of the Republic of Hungary - covering additional countries in the neighborhood of the Visegrad Group.
The basic goals of the Polish presidency have been successfully attained. These include two meetings of prime ministers, a meeting of foreign ministers (the first since 2000), consultations of foreign ministry representatives, wide-ranging dialog between representatives of ministries and parliamentary European Union committees. Our states maintained the special links between their diplomatic missions in third countries and international organizations. Collaboration with the Benelux thrived and relations were maintained with the Nordic Council. The Visegrad cooperation gained a new and important self-government dimension: in October 2004, Krakow hosted the first Forum of Visegrad Regions, which saw the signing of a joint cooperation declaration by partners from Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.
Another noteworthy achievement of the Polish presidency was the Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the International Visegrad Fund (December 2004), which amended the Fund statute. The International Visegrad Fund continued its promotional activity, having at its disposal resources increased to 3 million euro in 2005. The Fund also granted 29 stipends to post-graduates and young scientists from Ukraine.
Throughout the Polish presidency, our country has vigorously voiced its views and participated in the debate on the future shape of the European Union and the respective sector policies. Particular note is due to the coordinated action of the Visegrad Group with regard to the New Financial Perspective and the Schengen Agenda. The Visegrad Group expressed its positions on European, transatlantic and security issues. The defense ministers of the Group endorsed the idea of establishing an International Air Training Center at Dęblin. The Group states also inaugurated discussion on regional policy. In April 2004, Warsaw hosted a ministerial conference devoted to that question. Activity relating to regional policy is likely to strengthen future cooperation between the Group and the Benelux.
Multilateral political dialog was realized through meetings of prime ministers, foreign ministers and senior representatives of foreign ministries. Meetings were also held in the expanded V4+ format. Due to the ceremonies following the death of Pope John Paul II, the planned meeting of Group presidents was rescheduled to early September 2005.
27th August 2004 - Warsaw, meeting of MFA political directors of V4 states, European correspondents and V4 national coordinators;
16th September 2004 - Warsaw, consultations of MFA secretaries and under-secretaries of state;
17th September 2004 - Warsaw, consultations of MFA secretaries and under-secretaries of state + Weimar Triangle;
7th December 2004 - Krakow, meeting of foreign ministers;
8th December 2004 - Warsaw, meeting of V4 prime ministers and meeting with the chancellor of Austria and prime minister of Slovenia;
12th December 2004 - Brussels, consultations of V4 political directors + Baltic states + Scandinavian states;
31st January 2005 - Brussels, meeting of V4 European ministers and Lithuania;
21st April 2005 - Vilnius, meeting of V4 foreign ministers with the foreign minister of Ukraine;
23rd May 2005 - Brussels, meeting of V4 political directors, Austria and Slovenia.
Regular contacts were maintained by representatives of parliaments. Their talks were dominated by current European issues.
21st-22nd June 2005 - Warsaw, meeting of chairpersons of parliamentary committees for foreign affairs, defense and European integration;
28th-30th January 2005 - Zakopane, meeting of parliamentary EU committees;
18th-20th April 2005 - Častá Papiernička, meeting of parliamentary EU committees.
Current international issues were the subject of consultations between representatives of the respective departments of foreign ministries.
4th November 2004 - Warsaw, consultations of European departments on Eastern policy, format of the V4 + Baltic states;
29th November 2004 - Warsaw, consultations of security policy departments;
2nd December 2004 - Budapest, consultations of consular departments;
2nd December 2004 - Warsaw, meeting of directors of EU departments;
10th February 2005 - Warsaw, consultations of EU departments, representatives of ministries responsible for regional policy of V4 states and European Parliament experts;
15th-16th February 2005 - Prague, Budapest, Bratislava, tour by America Department Director Henryk Szlajfer following visit to the US by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski and visit to Poland by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice;
21st March 2005 - Warsaw, meeting of OECD plenipotentiaries;
4th-5th April 2005 - Warsaw, consultations of V4 planning departments + Lithuania, Georgia, Romania and Ukraine;
15th April 2005 - Bratislava, consultations of security policy departments.
Issues relating to Visegrad cooperation were the subject of regular meetings by the V4 national coordinators. Meetings of the V4 - Benelux Task Force had the goal of developing dialog with the Benelux General Secretariat.
20th September 2004 - Warsaw, meeting of national coordinators;
1st October 2004 - Brussels, V4-Benelux Task Force;
18th October 2004 - Prague, meeting of national coordinators;
15th-16th February 2005 - Bratislava, meeting of national coordinators with Benelux Secretary-General B. M. J. Hennekam;
12th April 2005 - Budapest, meeting of national coordinators;
4th May 2005 - Brussels, V4-Benelux Task Force;
20th May 2005 - Warsaw, meeting of national coordinators.
Cooperation in the framework of the Visegrad Group is not limited to the political dimension. Specific issues within the competency of other ministries and central institutions were the subject of the following meetings:
20th-21st May 2004 - Siófok, meeting of environment ministers;
24th May 2004 - Komorní Hrádek, meeting of defense ministers;
18th-20th September 2004 - Cedzyna, meeting of presidents of patent offices;
11th October 2004 - Krakow, meeting of representatives of interior ministries;
13th-15th October 2004 - Krakow, meeting of justice ministers;
28th-29th October 2004 - Vysoké Tatry, meeting of presidents of central auditing offices;
4th November 2004 - Warsaw, meeting of finance ministers and meeting with US Treasury Secretary John W. Snow;
4th November 2004 - Budapest, meeting of agriculture ministers;
11th-12th November 2004 - Sarospatak, meeting of culture ministers;
4th March 2005 - Warsaw, meeting of defense ministers and meeting with the defense minister of Ukraine;
17th March 2005 - Straszyn, meeting of infrastructure ministers;
14th-15th April 2005 - Warsaw, meeting of regional development ministers;
28th-29th April 2005 - Bańska Bystrzyca, meeting of culture ministers;
6th May 2005 - Prague, meeting of finance ministers;
6th-7th June 2005 - Kraków, meeting of environment ministers.
Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski will be the host of the next meeting of Visegrad Group presidents. The meeting, planned in Poland, will constitute a symbolic conclusion of the Polish presidency.
The actual end of the Polish presidency will occur on 10th June 2005 when VG prime ministers meet in Kazimierz. The year-long presidency will be then assumed by the Republic of Hungary.
The four new member states of the EU which comprise the Visegrad Group are actively involved in shaping the policy of security and stabilization in their environment. The rising frequency of meetings and contacts with certain partners outside the EU does not indicate plans to enlarge the Group.
Group presentation of positions has been validated in the EU environment. The Visegrad Group is perceived there as a natural spokesman for the four states of Central Europe. This is particularly relevant after the fiasco of the constitutional referendum in France.
The Visegrad Group - as part of the transatlantic environment - is committed to a positive evolution of Euro-Atlantic relations.