On the 1st of July 2017 Hungary has taken over from Poland the presidency of the Visegrád Group, also called the Visegrád 4 or V4. The main pupose of the Group has changed since its establishment on the 15 February 1991, however in general it aims to represent the Central-European countries’ - namely Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia - economical, diplomatic and political interests and to harmonize eventual futur actions. Although the alliance has not been institutionalized over the last 25 years (i.e. it operates on a strictly an intergovernmental base), but since 1999 following a rotating system, one of the four countries has been elected as president of the Group. Thus, Hungary is now fulfilling this position for the fifth time.
The main priorities (after discussions with the members, focusing primarily on on the current issues within the V4), the level and date of the meetings are all predefined in the presidency programs. The current Hungarian presidency launched the program called V4 Connects which contains the following sections: 1. European Visegrád, 2. Regional Visegrád, 3. Digital Visegrád, 4. Global Visegrád.
The European Visegrád section of the presidency program reflects to the issues the European Union is dealing with, with special attention to the issues occurring within the V4 Group, such as allianceallianceabout the EU’s future, cooperation with European partners, managment of the migration crisis and judicial cooperation.
In the context of the debate over the EU’s future, the program aims to achieve a joint action in the question of “more Europe” vs. “better, stronger Europe”. In this debate, the V4 should aim to vote for the latter, i.e. a “strong Europe of strong nations” Regarding the competitiveness and economical convergence which define the future of EU, the members also elaborate the topics of strengthening the internal market, enhancing R&D and innovation, maintaining cohesion and role of the joint agricultural policies in order to achieve economical convergence in underdeveloped regions In order to manage the European security challenges, the V4 wishes to strengthen the external border defence, duly apply of the Schengen system and they consider the cooperation with Balkan and Eastern European states as priority. According to the program, it is important for the EU to be predictable, and to implement its promises. Thus, the program coordinates the V4 members’ point of views in numerous European questions and it is willing to continue the V4 discussions prior to the debates within the EU institutions. The program also emphasizes the establishment of a common European position in regards to the Brexit negotiations.
The program further highlights the continuation of the consultations with Germany, Austria, Slovenia and the Nordic-Baltic 8 states, the strengthening of the Central European Defence Cooperation. In addition, the V4 considers it important to consult with the UK regarding Brexit and th Romania and Bulgaria regarding the cohesion policy. The Group proposes to extend the latter to Austria, Slovenia and Croatia.
Regarding the responsible management of the migration crisis, the program considers comprehensive response, abolition of migration outside the EU and representation of the common position of the V4s, as well as coordination of positions, cooperation of border police and efficient management of the V4 group’s migration crisis policy.
In the area of judicial cooperation, the program promotes internal stability, legal assistance, protection of victims as well as the support of familes with international issues. For this reason, the Group wishes to organize to high level international conferences.
The Regional Visegrád section of the presidency program has three major areas. The first area includes topics such as relations within the Visegrad Group, parliamentary dimension or the International Visegrad Fund. The second area focuses on the relations with the neighboring regions and the assistance of the West Balkan and Eastern countries. The third area elaborates policy issues such as defence cooperarion, foreign and security policy, non-proliferation, energy policy, energy infrastructure, climate policy, transport policy and infrastructure.
Regarding the relations within the V4 Group, the program seeks to strengthen interparliamentary relations, regional cohesion and cultural diplomacy, to promote common values, to protect national, ethnic and religious minorities and their cultural heritage, to play central role in youth and family policy, nutrition, public health, disability assistance and sports and it wishes to promote cooperation of the V4 public media.
In regards to the Neighbourhood Policy and to the support of the West-Balkan and Eastern partnerships, the Hungarian presidency plans to organize numerous events and high level meetings which would facilitate the European integration of the countries in question and that the issues of these two regions remain on the EU’s agenda.
Regarding the defence cooperation, foreign and security policy and non-proliferation, the Hungarian presidency wishes to continue and deepen the already existing cooperation as the Visegrád Group has already defined a defence cooperation action plan for the period of 2016-2018 and it also has a counterterrorism strategy in place. The key elements in this point are the monitoring of changes, adaptation and - if possible - the strengthening of proactivity.
Similarily to the defence cooperation, the Hungarian presidency also wishes to support the already existing and working initiatives in the field of energy policy and energy infrastructure. The decisive part of this is to strengthen North-South interconnectivity and to support security of supply and market integration efforts, and align the energy and energy infrastructure steps and processes of the V4 with the EU's energy union plans. In the field of climate policy, the coordination of the V4’s and the EU's climate policy, as well as the possible establishment and representation of a joint Visegrád position, is a key objective of the Hungarian presidency.
Regarding the trasport policy and infrastructure, he presidency program covers three main objectives: 1.) strengthening of North-South transport relations 2.) facilitation of national border crossing 3.) establishing a strong relation between transport professionals.
The Digital Visegrád section of the presidency program reflects on the digital possibilities and challenges of the present era. The program elaborates from this perspective the competitiveness of the V4 including specializations, policies (finance, cohesion, agricultural policy, social dimension, economic policy, labor policy, industry, science, technology, innovation, startups, agriculture, environment, water science) and their purposes and endeavor. At this point we would like to highlight only three purposes that we consider to bey a key area. Firstly, a passage of the presidency program states that a workforce having digital expertise is a key element in any digitalization initiative. Secondly, the program phrases that the labor market opportunities of the new generations makes it inevitable for the V4 countries to digitalize their educational system. Thirdly, in order to increase the potential of talent management within the region, the presidency handles as priority the establishment and strengthening of a modern, international high educational sector, the launching of educational and training programs which would enhance the mobility within the V4 Group.
At last, the presidency program’s Global Visegrád section summarizes the V4 priorities in two areas. First is the partnership with states outside of EU: Japan, Korea, USA, African Union, Pacific Community. Second is the promotion of the common cultural, economical and touristic values of the V4 region. The main purpose of this section (the V4 + partnerships and joint international action; tourism and promotion of the region) is to initiate such V4 like events that would facilitate the development of the region’s visibility, economical relations and touristic opportunities.