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Visegrad group before enterning of member countries into the European Union

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  • Libor Lukášek
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    Abstract

    Th e Visegrad Group is an alliance of Eastern European countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) founded 15 February 1991 in Visegrad with the presidents of Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland signing a ?Declaration on mutual cooperation for further European integration.? Th e strategic goals of the Group were to fi ll in the securityeconomic vacuum created in the region as the result of the fundamental international political changes at the end of the 1980?s, the renewal of national sovereignty, democracy and freedom, the liquidation of all existing social, economic, and value system remnants of the totalitarian system, the building of parliamentary democracy, a modern legal state based on respect for human rights and basic freedoms, and the creation and practical implementation of a market economy. An additional important motive was to coordinate common activity in the integration processes with NATO and the EC/ EU. Th roughout its existence the Visegrad Group had the character of a long-term consultation process similar to the Helsinki Conference/OSCE. Th e single permanent institution established by the Visegrad Group is the International Visegrad Fund, which was founded in 2000. Th e mission of the Fund is to support development of cooperation in the cultural, scientifi c, research, and educational fi elds and to support cross-border cooperation and development of a civil society. Th e Visegrad Group launched joint activities in 1991-1992 with the clear common motives of providing security and stability in the Central European region, particularly against the impacts of the collapsing Soviet Union on one side and a unifi ed Germany on the other. Common steps were therefore taken to coordinate security and foreign policies; cooperation also occurred on the economic level, especially as the result of adopting measures related to the transition from a centrally planned economy to a market-based economy. Th e suppression of cooperation in the years 1993-1998 was caused in part by the loss of areas for cooperation (providing security and stability in the Central European region, the termination of all structures of the former Socialist block, the preference for an individual approach to integration over a joint approach). Another reason was changes in the political representation in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as the new political elite did not look with favour upon Visegrad cooperation. Predominant during this period was the individual approach of countries in both foreign relations and in the integration processes. Beginning with the NATO Madrid Summit in July 1997 (for the period of 1997-1998) it is possible to follow closer cooperation in the military-security fi eld. Th e reason for this was the attempt by the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary to enter NATO as quickly as possible. Eff orts were made in the period of 1998-2004 to renew Visegrad Group projects. Th ese eff orts were related to the ascent of new political representatives, particularly in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia, who favoured the idea of Visegrad cooperation. Interest in strengthening the Visegrad civic dimension and an eff ort to aid Slovakia in accelerating its integration processes were evident. A system of rotating leadership similar to that used in the EU was introduced. Meetings between presidents of the individual countries and two summits, one formal and the other informal, are held annually. In time additional platforms of mutual cooperation are created ? at the ministry level (foreign aff airs, defence, culture, environment, transportation, and health), the parliamentary level (parliament leadership and selected committees), as well as other experts. Th is study investigated the fulfi lment of selected Visegrad Group strategic goals ? securing a stabile environment in Central Europe following the changes at the end of the 1980?s as well as the joint coordination of activities and common steps to enter NATO and the EU. Th e fi rst analyzed strategic goal of the Visegrad Group was fulfi lled with the active participation of member countries. All of the member countries in a relatively short period of time managed to disengage from the infl uence of Soviet power, common positions and coordination of activities led to the gradual creation and maintenance of stability in the region, the cancellation of relics of block organization was successfully achieved (COMECON and the Warsaw Pact), and the countries actively participated in the coordination of Central European foreign policy, the goal of which was to persuade Western countries of the credibility of the group?s foreign policy and integration eff orts. Practical cooperation in the military-security sphere contributed to Czech, Polish, Hungarian (1999), and Slovak (2004) entrance into NATO. Th is form of cooperation was in place throughout the existence of the Visegrad Group. It was restricted, however, between 1993 and 1997. Following the NATO Madrid Summit in July 1997 there was an intensifi cation of the coordination of joint Czech, Hungarian, and Polish activities, the result of which was the creation of a free institutional (regular meetings of military and political leaders) and professional (the creation of specialized working groups to cover priority areas of NATO entrance) framework for selected areas. Aft er joining NATO cooperation in selected spheres continued (support for further expansion, the exchange of experience in selected areas). In the sphere of the European integration process the Visegrad Group did not fulfi l its original expectations. Th e accession of all four countries on 1 May 2004 was more the work of the countries? individual approaches than the result of systematically coordinated joint cooperation. While the Visegrad Group held discussions on EU integration process matters, an individual approach was adopted on the majority of subjects (matters related to negotiating specifi c EU accession conditions, EU reform, the European Constitution, and searching for joint positions in the economic, agricultural, business, and tax fi - elds). Political representatives of individual states were not able to fi nd common ground on a number of preliminary issues directly infl uencing their integration ambitions; in several spheres the countries even competed against one another. Planned coordination for the EU entrance process was never achieved. Th erefore the idea of Central European cooperation in the sphere of EU integration was never fulfi lled. Th e cooperation of Visegrad countries within the EU will likely be based on the policy of advocating individual national interests. It is however possible to fi nd themes of regional interest that could be discussed and advanced in unison. Th e Visegrad Group in NATO and the EU could therefore be an appropriate tool for advocating commonly defi ned interests (in the military-security sphere, issues of the so-called second and third pillar of the EU (joint foreign and defence policies, internal, and judicial policy), the strengthening of the civic dimension between Visegrad countries, environmental protection, support of common infrastructure and energy projects, etc..

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by University of Economics, Prague in its journal Regionální studia.

    Volume (Year): 2010 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 46-53

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    Handle: RePEc:prg:jnlrst:v:2010:y:2010:i:2:id:29:p:46-53

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    Keywords: European Union; Evropská unie; Visegrad Group; regional cooperation; regional forum; regionalism; integration; security; NATO; Visegrádská skupina; regionální spolupráce; regionální forum; regionalismus; integrace; bezpečnost; NATO;

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