A new Visegrad Group in the new European Union - possibilities and opportunities for development
The Visegrad Group has fulfilled the tasks it was set when established. It seems unjustified, therefore, to ponder the need for it to function further. However, it is advisable to lay out new tasks, suitable for the group's operation in the new European reality - following EU accession of Visegrad countries in May 2004.
I. Looking back
The Visegrad Group (V4), a non-institutional group centred on four Central European nations - the Czech Republic, Slovakia (initially Czechoslovakia), Poland and Hungary, was formed twelve years ago. The Visegrad Declaration was signed during a meeting in the Hungarian city of Visegrad on 15 February 1991 by the presidents of Czechoslovakia and Poland, Vaclav Havel and Lech Wałęsa, as well as Hungarian Prime Minister Jozsef Antall. The group's chief aim was regional co-operation and the unification of efforts aimed at leading these countries to successful integration with Western structures: the European Union and NATO. Over the past twelve years the V4 has experienced ups and downs and its disintegration was announced on at least several occasions. Co-operation faltered, for example, following the break-up of Czechoslovakia and whilst Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus - a sceptic of the Visegrad Group - was in office (currently, as of February 2003, President of the Czech Republic). Just last year the V4 suffered two major crises: following the public return to the case of the Benes Decrees by Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban (Czech and Slovak government leaders called off their participation in that Visegrad meeting) and during the "race of the negotiators" at the EU summit held in Copenhagen. This last "crisis" made it clear to everyone that each of the four member countries has its own priorities and will, above all, look out for them in the EU. However, this does not exclude co-operation in areas where the Visegrad Group's interests are concurrent, as was the common goal of integration into NATO. The V4 should be viewed in a realistic, not maximalist, manner. It should not be set too high expectations and must be elastic in its adjustment to various situations.