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International Visegrad Fund

Think Visegrad


2006/2007 Slovak Presidency

In summer 2006 Hungary's Presidency of the Visegrad group will be handed over to the Slovak Republic for a period of one year. This period will coincide with the Finnish and German Presidencies of the EU and with the Slovak Republic's non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Cooperation between V4 countries has lost nothing of its significance since their accession to the EU. Slovakia's Presidency of the V4 will continue to build upon the results achieved during previous Presidencies.
The main priorities of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
  1. to make V4 a dynamic regional forum within the EU;
  2. to continue strengthening the coordination and consultation aspects of V4 cooperation, with the aim of establishing common positions and standpoints concerning issues of mutual interest;
  3. to help improve the general level of public awareness concerning the V4.
Important meetings planned during Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
·   Heads of State: 2 meetings (in September 2006 - to be held in the Czech Republic - and in April/May 2007);
·   Prime Ministers: 3 meetings (at the end of July or beginning of August 2006 - to be held in Visegrád, Hungary, in December 2006 before the EU summit and in June 2007 at the conclusion of Slovakia's V4 Presidency);
·   Ministers of Foreign Affairs: 3 meetings (in July 2006 at the inauguration of Slovakia's V4 Presidency, in October/November 2006 and in March/April 2007; it would be convenient to schedule the dates of ministerial meetings in order to correspond with international conferences in the Slovak Republic or to invite for these ministerial meetings partners from Ukraine, Moldova, from the Baltic, Benelux and Nordic Council countries and from Austria, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania);
·   The State Secretaries and Political Directors of Foreign Ministries: according to needs and circumstances;
·   Expert Discussions: 2 meetings on the level of Departmental Directors of V4 Foreign Ministries concerning the eastern dimension and European Neighbourhood Policy, 2 meetings on the level of Foreign Ministry Departmental Directors concerning issues in the Western Balkans, 2 meetings on the level of Foreign Ministry Departmental Directors concerning security issues, and 2 meetings between Directors of Foreign Ministry Analytical/Planning Departments. One of 2 of these expert meetings should be organized in enlarged format with other interested parties (e.g. EU Presidency, USA, Benelux, countries in the regions etc.). 1 meeting on the level of the Consular Department Directors of V4 Foreign Ministries.
·   National Visegrad Coordinators: regular meetings on a monthly basis.
I. The Foreign Policy and European Dimensions of Visegrad Cooperation
Responsible Institution: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The objectives of Slovakia's V4 Presidency, with regard to foreign policy and European dimensions, involve cooperation with the Benelux, Baltic and Nordic Council countries and joint activities relating to Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and the countries of the Western Balkans - which will be a fitting accompaniment to EU initiatives carried out within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Stabilisation and Association Process.
  The Slovak Presidency will endeavour to coordinate the activities of V4 countries with regard to support for bringing Ukraine closer to the EU and NATO. It will draw upon the International Visegrad Fund to support the studies of Ukrainian students and doctoral students at schools in V4 countries.
The Slovak Presidency of the V4 will also endeavour to coordinate the exchange of information concerning the planned measures and activities of individual V4 countries in Belarus (in areas such as culture, education, science, economy, etc.) and to promote cooperation in order that they will be realised and presented as joint V4 activities.
In accordance with the joint declaration approved by the foreign ministers of V4 countries, Austria and Slovenia and of the Western Balkan countries at a ministerial conference concerning the Western Balkans held in Budapest on 11 October 2005, the Slovak Presidency of the V4 will make an effort to enhance the V4's activities with regard to the Western Balkan region. It will make sure that these activities - both in the region itself and within the EU as a whole - contribute to and complement the programmes of corresponding EU Presidencies, especially with regard to advancing the Stabilisation and Association Process, and the successful resolution of unresolved regional issues. The results of cooperation with Western Balkan countries will be assessed by Foreign Ministers of the V4, Austria and Slovenia and the Western Balkan countries at regular yearly joint meetings.
If the EU's period of reflection continues beyond June 2006, the Slovak Presidency will initiate an exchange of opinions between the V4 countries concerning the EU's future direction, the EU's global role and the opportunities for more efficient regional cooperation within the EU itself.
The Slovak Presidency of the V4 will strive for improvement of the effectiveness of discussions - on both a working and political level - in the areas of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP). It will focus on unifying the standpoints of V4 countries concerning the fundamental issues of the EU's approach to these areas. V4 supports the ESDP development as a strengthening of transatlantic security relations.
  A greater level of coordination is required with regard to the candidatures of V4 countries to European institutions on the highest political level. Slovakia's Presidency will endeavour to initiate consultations on candidatures within the framework of the V4 before they are submitted to the EU. Consultations will focus primarily on institutional candidatures and in the event of progress in this area on the coordination of personal candidatures.
The Slovak Presidency will continue to support the activities of the V4 working group for EU language policy with the aim of opening up a political and expert discussion on multilingualism, international communication and other related linguistic issues based on broad (legal) analyses within the enlarged EU. Results of the activities carried out in the working group will be presented at a ministerial meeting.
With regard to Slovakia's non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2006 - 2007: the Slovak Republic is keen to inform its V4 partners about the Council's activities and to pay great attention to their opinions and standpoints.
  The Slovak Presidency will coordinate effort in the V4 format to create legal frame for providing of official development aid  (adopting law on development aid on national level) and its institutionalisation (creating development agencies in the V4 countries).
  The collective membership of V4 countries in the OECD Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), an intergovernmental organisation, may help overcome the hostility of overseas FATF members to the preponderance of EU countries in the Task Force. For this reason the Slovak Presidency of the V4 will try to achieve this objective.
The Slovak V4 Presidency will continue to support non-enlargement of the V4; on the other hand it will also fully support further cooperation along the lines of the "V4+" format.
II. The Sectoral Dimension of Visegrad Cooperation
1. Cooperation in the Area of Home Affairs
Responsible Institution: Ministry of the Interior
1. Schengen,  Asylum and Migration
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
-    issues concerning the implementation of the Schengen acquis;
-    the Schengen evaluation of the new Member States;
-    SIS II and VIS strategic management;
-    application of Dublin II;
-    abuse of asylum procedure (exchange of the information and practical experiences connected with "repeated entry" to the asylum procedure);
-    improving asylum decision procedure (cross-border interpreting);
-    translating challenges concerning COI (countries of origin);
-    cooperation with Ukraine in the field of border control and asylum;
-    police cooperation - practical application of the Schengen Implementation Treaty, joint patrol, hot pursuit, cross-border surveillance, start the operation of the common contact points.
2. Public Administration
A meeting on the level of V4 Deputy Ministers and State Secretaries will be held in Warsaw in the second half of 2006.
The existing expert groups 1 - 3 will continue in their work.
Group 1: Modernisation of public administration in V4 countries
The focus of the expert group:
-    the issue of division of powers between central and local governments, decentralisation of central government powers to territorial level, evaluation of the process of assignment of powers;
-    possibilities for broadening local democracy, enhancing the possibilities of the citizens to participate in local public life;
-    promoting cross-border, territorial cooperation, reducing the existing legal and public administrative obstacles of cross-border cooperation;
-    discussion on the co-ordination and control system among public administration organs on territorial level;
-    discussion on the support and development of the different forms of cooperation among settlements to increase the efficiency of public administration;
-    enhancing the quality of public services, standardisation of public services.
Group 2: Information systems in public administration
The focus of the expert group:
-    regular exchange of information on the application of information and communication technologies in public administration and the impact of information and communication technologies on the processes of the public administrative reform and modernisation (e-government);
-    monitoring system for public administration using ICT, emphasising the role of relevant ministries responsible for the area of e-government;
-    cooperation and exchange of best practices in the field of public information strategy and the concept of implementing information technology in public administration;
-    regular exchange of information on the implementation of biometrical data to passports and data storage in the chips of passports;
-    cooperation between V4 countries and Austria in the field of e-government.
Group 3: Training in public administration
The focus of the expert group:
-    ensuring the ethical behaviour of local and regional authorities, elected representatives and officers (e. g. distribution of the code of ethics in public administration), fight against corruption;
-    development of the rational operation of the central and local entities of public administration, human resource management;
-    exchange of information about the system of examinations for civil servants.
3. Disaster Management
The existing cooperation in the field of disaster management will continue. The  meeting of the heads of disaster management offices shall be held in the first half of 2007.
4. Security Policy
The cooperation between the V4 countries and Austria in the fight against extremism will continue. The meeting of the existing expert group will be held.
2. Economic Cooperation
Responsible Institution:  Ministry of the Economy
1. Industry
Cooperation in the field of industry will continue in accordance with the previous programme of cooperation within the framework of the V4. This means establishing direct contacts between small and medium-sized businesses coupled with effective support for professional federations and associations. Slovakia's V4 Presidency will concentrate upon cross-border cooperation projects, supported as part of programmes intended to promote European partnerships between towns and regions, with the aim of carrying out activities that encourage regional growth. One fruitful area could be cooperation between V4 members aimed at dealing with the needs of countries that are aspiring to join the EU.
2. Energy
Based upon earlier positive experiences cooperation in the energy sector should continue in the same appropriate fashion. Expert discussions will focus upon addressing the current issues surrounding the EU's energy policy agenda, employing every possible means to co-ordinate positions and to discuss the matters debated by EU bodies which are in the common interests of the V4. Additionally experts will address the issue of diversification of energy supplies and other energy policy related topics raised by individual V4 members. In this regard eventual expert meeting should discuss:
-    ways of improving the coordination and consultation of joint V4 standpoints within the framework of EU institutions;
-    consultations and a coherent approach to the secure transmission of energy as well as on diversification of energy sources and routes of transportation;
-    defining the possible benefits of cooperation with non-EU countries from the region;
-    ways of exchanging information on energy policy, on privatisation strategies, on the concepts of member states regarding the liberalisation of energy markets and on the obligations arising from the approximation of laws to those of the EU;
-    the interconnection of electricity grids, cooperation between CENTREL and the UCTE, possibilities of a joint approach, harmonisation of tariffs in cross-border transport, cooperation aimed at improving the financing of TEN energy on the part of the EU;
-    new developments in the process of liberalising the natural gas market, cooperation in the construction of crude oil pipeline (OBP project), interconnecting gas pipelines systems in the north-south direction;
-    development of strategic natural gas emergency reserves;
-    cooperation in the area of maintaining oil reserves aimed at bringing regulations into line with those of the EU, projects involving the interconnection of pipeline systems;
-    developing cooperation and exchanging experiences in the areas of efficient energy use and renewable energy sources (RES) especially in connection with the EU Biomass Action Plan and the anticipated approval of guidelines concerning energy services and the corresponding Energy Efficiency Action Plan (EEAP);
-    issue of electricity generation from nuclear sources.
3. Better Regulation
The policy of better regulation is aimed at improving legislation in order to bring greater benefits of enterprenuers including SMEs to citizens and to minimise expenditure. In the context of the revitalised Lisbon Strategy - which is oriented towards growth and employment - the European Commission has declared its intention to embark upon a targeted initiative ensuring that the EU's regulatory framework corresponds to the demands of the 21st century. V4 countries should therefore implement their own better regulation initiatives in parallel to EU activities.
Slovakia's V4 Presidency will provide space for dialogue concerning better regulation in the V4 countries with the aim of exchanging experiences and ideas in the area of simplifying legislation.
This will include:
-    further development of Impact Assessments procedures primarily focused upon economic aspects and competitiveness;
-    developing a method to measure administrative burden on business;
-    identifying priority areas of current EC law which should be simplified;
-    developing regulatory indicators to measure the quality and the pace of regulatory reform in V4 countries;
-    improving regulatory structures and processes in V4 countries.
  Further issues could be discussed ad hoc among representatives of V4 countries using working consultations in the respective EU bodies.
3. Tourism
Responsible Institution:  Slovak Tourist Board
Slovakia's Presidency intends to continue V4 cooperation in the field of tourism with a new motto: "The European Quartet - One Melody". A working group aimed at facilitating cooperation between V4 countries in the field of tourism has recently been established. In February 2007 the Slovak Presidency of the V4 will organise - within the framework of this working group - a meeting between high-level representatives of state institutions responsible for tourism.  It will focus upon existing cooperation between the V4 countries and Japan in the field of tourism and discussions regarding the realisation of specific projects.
Priorities of Slovakia's V4 Presidency in the field of tourism:
1. Close Cooperation between National Tourist Boards on "The European Quartet - One Melody" Project
-    joint marketing activities in foreign markets: USA, Japan and China;
-    joint participation in tourism trade fairs and expositions in USA, Japan and China;
-    exchanging marketing and statistical information;
-    the joint creation of promotional material and maps aimed especially at tourist services in: capital cities, UNESCO world heritage sites, spas and medical tourism, historic towns, Jewish and other religious heritages, national gastronomy;
-    providing informative excursions for foreign journalists and tour operators in order to encourage the inclusion of destinations in travel agency brochures, travel magazines and newspapers;
-    updating the joint website ( in four languages with particular emphasis on tourism services together with professional information on this area;
-    organising road-shows for the media and experts.
2. Promoting the Common Interests of V4 Countries through the European Travel Commission (ETC)
-    enforce the realisation of marketing researches and studies on overseas markets;
-    enforce the presentation of the V4 project entitled "The European Quartet - One Melody" on the ETC portal -
3. Utilising European Union Funds and the International Visegrad Fund for Cooperation in the Field of Tourism
-    special emphasis on Interreg and the International Visegrad Fund;
-    supporting the interests of regions within the V4 and Euro-regions in the field of cross-border cooperation;
-    specific forms of cooperation drawing up cross-border programmes including regional organisations.
4. Transport and Telecommunications
Responsible Institution:  Ministry of Transport, Post, and Telecommunications
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
-    developing cooperation in the area of rail transport (IOP);
-    cooperation in the area of traffic safety (progress achieved and the means of improving cooperation in this area);
-    fees and charges for the highways and other roads (implementation of the electronic toll system - exchanging experiences, possibility of cooperation, interoperability etc.);
-    Galileo system (applying the programme in particular countries);
-    cohesion and structural funds (exchanging the experiences gained when using these funds in the area of transport infrastructure including PPP projects);
-    cooperation on installation River Information Service - RIS.
A meeting between V4 transport ministers is planned for the first half of 2007.
-    development in the field of electronic communications - exchanging experiences.
A meeting of V4 ministers responsible for informatics and telecommunications is planned for the first half of 2007.
5. Agriculture
Responsible Institution: Ministry of Agriculture
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
-    coordinating the standpoints of V4 countries with relation to the EU as regards the issue of protecting domestic markets against the import of sensitive products (poultry meat), preserving export rebates for certain goods exported to third countries (some types of milk and milk-based products);
-    exchanging opinions on how to address the current situation of poultry farming throughout the world, the issue of broiler welfare; the level of (national) milk quotas; discussing the opportunities for cooperation in the area of sheep and goat farming;
-    developing the use of agricultural biomasses in energy and industry, maintaining cooperation when implementing the acquis in the field of plant protection products;
-    extending existing cooperation between Slovakia and Holland to other V4 countries with regard to the certification of reproductive material for varieties of fruit, advice for producers' organisations and controlling conformity in accordance with EU directives;
-    joint approach to the interests of foresters on an EU level in accordance with existing forestry strategies and national forestry programmes;
-    creating a joint system of mutual technical assistance and support in the event of extraordinary situations arising and persisting in forests caused by the impact of harmful agents;
-    cooperation in the area of building an information society fulfilling the tasks of the Action Plan in the area of agriculture which stem from the Lisbon strategy;
-    harmonising legislation in the area of food (food codex), joint position on supermarket chains, joint position by land-locked countries on subsidies for the transport of grain to ports, re-evaluating earlier intervention purchase deadlines, exchanging information concerning situation and outlook reports on commodities and the Green Report; updating a list of internet sites that provide information and statistical data on agriculture in individual V4 countries;
-    discussing the coordination of various agrarian policies within the framework of the EU agenda and the exchange of experiences between V4 Ministries of Agriculture in the area of comitology;
-    cooperation in the field of rural development.
6. Regional Development
Responsible Institution: Ministry of Construction and Regional Development
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
-    regular meetings of the informal working group for regional policy;
-    exchanging experiences in the field of regional development and seeking ways of ensuring sustainable development in the regions of the V4;
-    exchanging experiences gained when utilising EU funds as part of the 2004 - 2006 programming period and coordinating preparations for utilising EU funds throughout the new 2007 - 2013 programming period;
-    consulting the issues surrounding the establishment of the European Cohesion Policy Institute in certain V4 countries;
-    the need to develop cross-border cooperation and international programmes;
-    the exchange of experiences between V4 countries concerning systems of management and control with regard to structural funds and the cohesion fund;
-    the importance of connecting V4 countries' infrastructures to the TEN-T network;
-    urban development, urban renewal and increasing urban competitiveness;
-    exchanging experiences when drawing up operational programmes for the 2007 - 2013 programming period;
-    support development of research activities and education in the field of regional policy for elaborating cohesion strategy and detailed analysis on the level of V4 (by means of think tank).
A meeting of V4 ministers responsible for regional development is planned during Slovakia's Presidency.
7. Culture
Responsible Institution: Ministry of Culture
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
-     to continue with the Visegrad Library project - Slovak project for publishing joint titles. The Host, Pesti Kalligram, Pogranicze, and Kalligram publishing companies will continue to publish 4 - 12 works per year by contemporary authors from the Visegrad countries translated into the Czech, Hungarian, Slovak and Polish languages;
-     to continue preparing for 2008 - the Year of Intercultural Dialogue, cooperation of V4 with the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures on preparation and realisation of common projects;
-     to begin preparing for the European Cultural Capital project - 2013;
-     exhibition of young designers from V4 countries in London;
-     projects of mutual interest intended to increase awareness concerning the development of democracy in Poland and the 50th anniversary of the revolution in Hungary;
-     the 125th anniversary of Béla Bartók's birth, and the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the International Cultural Centre in Krakow. The Slovak Republic plans to submit a collection of Slovak folk songs to the Memory of the World National Committee which were handwritten by Béla Bartók.
The 16th meeting on the level of V4 ministers of culture and experts will be held in Hungary in autumn 2006. The 17th meeting on the level of V4 ministers of culture and experts will be held in Slovakia in spring 2007.
8. Employment Policy and Social Affairs
Responsible Institution:  Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, and Family
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
-     organising a two-day seminar in 2007 concerned with the issue of active labour market policy (the instruments and measures of active labour market policy, role of Private Employment Services - complementary or competitive for Public Employment Services, the approach of employment offices to the elimination of long-term unemployment in V4 countries, support for families with unemployed members when entering the job market);
-     organising a two-day workshop in 2007 dedicated to the issue of obtaining statistical data on migration and methods for their evaluation, establishing indicators for assessing the effectiveness of integration measures, benchmarking (means of mutual comparison between V4 countries);
-     evaluating the priorities of operational programmes as part of the new 2007 - 2013 programming period when fulfilling Objective 3, European territorial cooperation (increasing the promotion of cross-border cooperation programmes in the field of social interaction, integration of cross-border labour markets, local initiatives in the areas of employment and business, creating cross-border organisational structures and networks together with cross-border transport infrastructure);
-     organising an international conference entitled "The Role of Men in Promoting Gender Equality" in the second half of 2006 as part of cooperation in the field of family and gender policy between the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Luxembourg;
-     cooperation and the exchange of experiences with organisations in V4 countries in the area of domestic violence - measures for its elimination and the reassertion of family values;
-     cooperation when implementing directives of the Council of the European Community and the Council of the European Economic Community which ensure the coordination of family benefits within the European Union;
-     implementing the concept of "flexicurity" which ensures the flexibility of the labour market whilst guaranteeing social protection;
-     coordinating the effort of V4 countries towards lifting the transitional arrangements on the free movement of labour within the EU.
9. Health Care
Responsible Institution:  Ministry of Health
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
1. Area of Cross-Border Health Care Cooperation
-     issue of providing health care in border regions - along the border between Poland and Slovakia (the High Tatras), between Hungary and Slovakia (the Komárno - Esztergom area, Győr, and Nové Zámky), and between Slovakia and the Czech Republic (drawing up guides for patients explaining how they can obtain care in neighbouring V4 countries, experiences with concluding and implementing cross-border agreements between health insurance companies and hospitals, basic requirements for patients' well-being and related legal aspects, improving legal guarantees when addressing practical issues connected with the use of funds and paying for cross-border health care).
2. Area of Public Health
-     encouraging the elderly to pursue a healthy lifestyle;
-     health education for children and young people (promoting health in pre-school years);
-     education programmes for children and young people aimed at preventing the consumption of alcohol and drugs and encouraging a proper lifestyle.
10. Environmental Protection
Responsible Institution: Ministry of the Environment
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
-     exchange of information on priorities supported in the field of environmental infrastructure development and environmental protection in the next program period of 2007 - 2013;
-     exchange of experience in implementing the structural funds in the field of  environment in 2004 - 2006 and preparing for the 2007 - 2013 program period;
-     exchange of experience and discussion on possible use of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects;
-     development of common V4 position and exchange of opinions concerning topics and issues discussed on European and regional level - preparation for the conference: Environment for Europe (Belgrade, 2007);
-     exchange of experiences in implementation of the 6th Community Environment Action Program - consider other thematic strategies - i.e. mainly in the field of waste and air pollution;
-     exchange of experience in removing the environmental burdens;
-     continuation of cooperation on the Natura 2000 Network programme;
-     exchange of experience in implementing the international conventions namely ESPOO Convention, Carpathian Convention and others;
-     exchanging of experience with transposition and implementation of EC legislation;
-     possibilities and target areas of cooperation in V4+ format in the field of environment and nature.
A meeting on the level of V4 environment ministers will be held in spring 2007.
11. Education and Science
Responsible Institution: Ministry of Education
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
-    international cooperation in the field of providing information and communication technology (ICT) to primary and secondary schools, share of experience on "best practices", importance of well trained teachers who are able to utilize the ICT; 
-     international cooperation in the field of foreign language teaching at primary and secondary schools;
-     professional education and preparation - i.e. exchange of positive experiences;
-     the Council of Europe's Europe-wide "All Different - All Equal" campaign aimed at supporting diversity, human rights and participation;
-     promoting the inclusion of problem-solvers from V4 countries and project results in the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) through mechanisms designed to encourage cooperation between problem-solvers from V4 countries when creating consortiums of project proposers for the FP7;
-     joint use of existing infrastructures, creating a database of technological innovations as a starting point not only within the framework of the 7th Framework Programme;
-     cooperation between the V4 and new EU members/candidate countries when providing knowledge and assistance in the area of science and technology, assuming the appropriate criteria have been met.
12. Defence
Responsible Institution: Ministry of Defence
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
-     holding an informal exchange of views and exploration of possible common approach prior to the NATO and EU ministerial meetings;
-     holding an exchange of experiences and exploring possibilities for joint activities in crisis management;
-     EDA - mutual support and the exchange of information on participation in projects;
-     organising discussions between V4 Defence Ministers;
-     inviting the Ukrainian defence minister to attend parts of discussions between V4 defence ministers;
-     cooperation within the framework of the PCC;
-     organising discussions between the General Directors for defence policy and international cooperation of V4 Defence Ministries;
-     maintaining cooperation between the General Directors for military education and personnel policy of V4 Defence Ministries;
-     holding expert discussions on possible cooperation when carrying out strategic transports in V4 countries;
-     organising discussions on a joint approach towards supporting Ukraine's NATO accession process.
III. The Civil Dimension of Visegrad Cooperation
The focus of Slovakia's V4 Presidency:
-     supporting the civil dimension of Visegrad co-operation through the International Visegrad Fund;
-     continuing to provide International Visegrad Fund grants for Ukrainian students and doctoral students at schools in V4 countries;
-     continuing to draw upon our positive experiences when awarding funds from the Visegrad Strategic Programme for selected projects;
-     improving co-operation between regions within the V4.

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