‘Cooperation despite the difference in interests’. The Visegrad Group is 30 years old

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Despite differences in interests, there have been 30 years of cooperation between Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, strengthened by the successful rejection of forced refugee relocation in the European Union in 2015. At present, it consists mainly of coordinating positions within the Community.

The Visegrad Group is one of the fruits of the fall of communism and systemic transformation in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The notional date of its creation is 15 February 1991, when presidents of Poland Lech Wałęsa and Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel and Hungarian Prime Minister Jozsef Antall signed a declaration specifying the objectives and conditions of cooperation. It took place in Hungarian Visegrad, where the 14th-century kings of Poland, Bohemia and Hungary met for economic and political negotiations.

 

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The Group’s objectives changed in subsequent years and defined cooperation initially between three countries and, after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, between four countries. With their achievement, this cooperation waned and was resumed after some time, as after the accession of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to NATO in 1999 and the accession of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia to the EU in 2004. 

 

Although the V4 members competed with each other while negotiating the terms of accession, the EU accession itself was an achievement of the goal of the founding declaration of the Visegrad Triangle. At that time, the sense of continuing this formula of cooperation was questioned in various circles, but it turned out that it could be an effective tool in the fight for one’s interests and place in the European arena.

 

Sectoral cooperation within the EU is particularly important for the Group’s existence. Its instrument is consultations of V4 political leaders and individual ministers before the meetings of various European bodies, which often allows to agree on a common position and support each other during the Community negotiations. 

 

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The V4 countries are trying to conduct EU policy in opposition to the policies of Germany or France. However, when it comes to extra-EU relations, the agreement of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia is difficult – as in the case of Russia, with which only Hungary maintains positive relations – or non-existent – as in the case of cooperation with China. 

 

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