The meeting Speakers of the Visegrad Group (V4) was held online on 12 January 2021, in the framework of the Polish Presidency of the Visegrad Group upon the invitation of Elżbieta Witek, Marshal of the Polish Sejm and Tomasz Grodzki, Marshal of the Polish Senate. The event was attended by László Kövér, Speaker of the National Assembly, Radek Vondráček, President of the House of Representatives, Miloš Vystrčil, President of the Senate of the Czech Republic and Boris Kollár, the President of the National Council of the Slovak Republic.
The meeting consisted of two parts and the following topics were discussed: the first part concerned the development of parliamentary cooperation in Visegrad Group, the resolution marking the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Visegrad Group, and regional cooperation with a view to combating the economic and social crisis caused by COVID-19; while during the second part of the meeting the Speakers discussed the European Green Deal, the proposal for a new Pact on Migration and Asylum as well as other current issues on the EU agenda, and V4 cooperation in the light of current foreign policy challenges (including the situation in Belarus, EU integration of the Western Balkans and the Central Europe policy of the USA after the presidential election).
The Speakers were in agreement about the need to strengthen the cooperation of the Visegrad Group, the need for joint action as well as a number of other issues like migration or foreign policy. The creation of a V4 Parliamentary Assembly or a similar consultative body was raised again in conjunction with the need to strengthen the cooperation of the V4 parliaments. The Polish Parliament proposed that the 30th anniversary of the Visegrad cooperation be commemorated by the four parliaments in a resolution or a similar form.
Speaker László Kövér informed the meeting that the Hungarian National Assembly had begun the planning for the events of the parliamentary co-operation under the Hungarian V4 Presidency, which will last for a year from July 2021, and in this context informed his partners that he intended to invite them again for the 10th Conference of Parliamentary Speakers of Southeast European countries to be held in the autumn of 2021.
In the framework of the Czech Presidency of the Visegrád Group, at the invitation of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, the Meeting of the Committees on Economic Affairs of the parliaments of the Visegrad Countries was held in Prague on 3-4 February 2020. The main topics of the event were transport infrastructure (with special regard to high speed rail lines), energetics and innovation strategy, on which the situation of the Czech Republic was introduced by the relevant deputy ministers. As a special guest, Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlíček took part in the meeting as well, and underlined that the V4 countries have many similar capabilities and, therefore, similar standpoints. For example, they support the use of nuclear power in the area of energetics, and the implementation of high-speed rail lines in the field of transport.
The Committee on Economics of the Hungarian National Assembly was represented by Vice-Chair Jenő Manninger and Committee Member Anita Potocskáné Kőrösi at the meeting, where all parliamentary chambers of the V4 countries were present. In his contribution, leader of the Hungarian delegation Jenő Manninger welcomed the continuity of the meetings of the V4 Economic Committees (referring to the meetings in Prague in 2016 and in Budapest in 2018). Concerning transport infrastructure, he emphasized that the development of the rail network is a key issue for Hungary and that high-speed rail lines—together with improving competitiveness and making social and economic progress—will play an important role in reaching the climate targets as well. Regarding the possible financial resources, he underlined that for Hungary it is very important to supplement relevant EU regulations, and it should be done by joint action of the V4 countries. In her contribution, Anita Potocskáné Kőrösi welcomed that one of the main priorities of the Czech V4 presidency is supporting research, development and innovation and praised the importance of cooperation and joint action of the V4 countries in this respect. She highlighted the significance of moving towards the digital economy, the Horizon Europe programme as a possible source of funding, and as for the countries with a lower innovation performance she underlined the importance of a minimum wage for researchers.
As host of the meeting, Chair of the Economic Committee of the Czech Chamber of Deputies Radim Fiala stressed the outstanding role of high-speed rail lines in transport infrastructures as well as the necessity of the cooperation of the V4 countries in the distribution of the EU funds. With regard to energetics, he stated that Czechs look at nuclear power as a clean source of energy that is necessary for the energy mix. On the topic of innovation, he underlined the importance of exchange of experience and added that the aim of the Czech Republic is to become one of the 20 most innovative countries of the world by 2030.
Chair of the Infrastructure Committee of the Polish Senate Jan Hamerski reported that they do trust in the implementation of high-speed rail lines, however, the specific technical questions will be answered by a study on possible implementation to be finalized in 2020.
Chair of the Slovak Economic Committee Jana Kiššová raised the importance of an innovative entrepreneurial environment, and pointed out that beyond increasing spending on innovation, monitoring of the results achieved should also be emphasized.
The presidency of the parliamentary cooperation of the Visegrád Group countries (V4) between July 2019 and July 2020 is held by the two chambers of the Czech Parliament. In this context, the Czech Chamber of Deputies, in cooperation with the Czech Senate, organised a joint committee meeting for the Defence Committees of the V4 parliaments on 7–8 January 2020. The Hungarian National Assembly was represented at the meeting by Miklós Simon, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Defence and Law Enforcement, with Miklós Boros, Hungary’s ambassador to Prague also attending the meeting. All the Defence or Security Committees of the Parliamentary Chambers of each V4 country were represented at the meeting (the Polish Sejm was represented at the expert level), the keynote addresses of which, were open to the press.
The three main themes of the event were V4 defence cooperation, joint procurements, and cyber defence and cyber security.
The meeting was opened by Jana Černochová, Chair of the Defence Committee of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, who in her opening speech recalled that the V4 cooperation will celebrate its 30th anniversary in February next year. She added that in recent years all countries have achieved a number of results individually, but they have always been the most effective when acting together. Among the speeches by the heads of delegations, Miklós Simon pointed out among other things with regards to defence policy, that the Visegrád Group cooperation is the most important regional forum for Hungary, providing an opportunity for regular debates and coordination of the various EU and NATO positions.
The progress made in the field of V4 defence cooperation and the defence priorities of the Czech V4 Presidency were presented by Radomír Jahoda, Deputy Minister for Defence Policy and Strategy at the Czech Ministry of Defence. Major general Jaromír Alan, Director of the Capability Planning Division of the Czech Army’s General Staff, then spoke about the V4 EU battlegroup, the possible reform thereof, the V4 JLSG HQ, the PESCO projects and the joint V4 trainings and exercises.
The second panel began with a presentation by Lubor Koudelka, Director of the Management and Support Department of the Armaments and Acquisition Division of the Czech Ministry of Defence, who shared a historical overview of joint procurement, the main reasons for the failure to cooperate and one of the main objectives of the Czech Presidency, the implementation of a small joint project.
In relation to the third item on the agenda, the delegations heard three lectures on the Czech Republic’s experience and approach to cyber defence and cyber security, the challenges and threats posed by cyber-attacks, and the possible solutions. Lukáš Kintr, Deputy Director of the National Cyber and Security Centre of the Czech National Cyber and Information Security Agency, explained that guaranteeing cyber security is the responsibility of the state, where prevention and understanding of potential threats are paramount. Parallel to this, cyber defence is the responsibility of military intelligence and the army, which was discussed in a presentation by Jan Beroun, Director of the Czech Military Intelligence. In the context of cyber defence, Mr. Beroun highlighted the lack of an exact definition and the importance of international cooperation. The third presentation was given by Michal Koudelka, Director of the Czech Security Information Service, who stressed that in addition to ongoing training, cooperation and mutual trust between the countries are essential in the fight against cyber-attacks.
In closing the meeting, the heads of delegations of the V4 defence committees signed a document containing the final conclusions of the event.