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.
On 17-18 November 2019, under the Czech Presidency of the Visegrád Group, organised by the Senate of the Czech Republic, the Conference of Presidents and Speakers of Parliaments of V4 Countries was held in Prague on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. The event was attended by the inviting party, Jaroslav Kubera, President of the Senate of the Czech Republic, as well as Radek Vondráček, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic, László Kövér, Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, Andrej Danko, Speaker of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, Elżbieta Witek, Marshal of the Polish Sejm, and Bogdan Borusewicz, Deputy Marshal of the Polish Senate. The meeting’s agenda focused on two topics: “November 1989” and “November 2019”. The special guest of the first session was Pavel Žáček, one of the organisers of the 1989 student demonstrations, and after the regime change director of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes and Security Services Archives, currently a Member of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, who in his speech thanked in particular the Hungarian young people for their active participation in the events of 1989 in Prague. During the commemorations, the participants jointly opened the exhibitions entitled “Velvet Revolution” and “Moments of the 20th century”, and also attended other celebratory events. As part of his personal programme, the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly laid a wreath at the memorial to the victims of communism.
During the first session, the participants shared their personal experiences of 1989, paid tribute to the leaders of the revolution, praised the importance of the Velvet Revolution and the freedom gained, and referred to the mutual support of the V4 countries, which was already experienced at that time. During the second session, the participants stressed the importance of the V4 cooperation, the necessity of common actions on the European stage, the need for equal treatment within the European Union and the consensus among V4 countries on supporting EU enlargement.
In his contribution, László Kövér, Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly praised the importance of the event and underlined the fact that the Visegrád cooperation has now become the closest and most effective European alliance. He emphasised the fact that the V4 countries have a clear vision about the future of Europe and that they are ready to contribute with constructive ideas to joint European solutions. He also thanked his V4 partners, that on 4 November all three countries were represented at the Speakers’ level at the ninth Conference of Parliamentary Speakers of Southeast European Countries, organised by the Hungarian National Assembly, as it was the first time that he had invited his Visegrád partners as well.
At the press conference following the event, host Jaroslav Kubera, President of the Czech Senate, emphasised the importance of the joint participation of V4 Presidents and Speakers of parliaments in the commemoration. He also underlined that further progress is needed regarding European-level cooperation in order to make the positions of the Visegrád countries better respected by the old Member States.
Radek Vondráček, Speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, summarising the discussions, stated that with regard to key issues, there is agreement and continuous cooperation among the V4 countries.
László Kövér, the Speaker of the National Assembly, expressed his thanks for the realisation of the event in celebration of the common success of our nations’ struggles for freedom, which strengthens the commitment to continue our cooperation. This is also justified by the fact that, as members of the European Union for 15 years, we have to admit that the EU is a framework for promoting interests, where countries of our size can only achieve success together. The Union is currently facing challenges for which it cannot find solutions or is seeking them in the wrong way; thus, the V4 should not only cooperate on questions about migration but also on economic ones (for example the multiannual financial framework). The Speaker was highly appreciative of the fact that this common presence at the event expressed our togetherness and emphasised that it is important for the V4 countries not to be considered a problem by the older EU Member States, but rather a solution.
Andrej Danko, Speaker of the Slovak National Council, referred to the fact that the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that allowed them to form their own state is also a national holiday in Slovakia. At the same time, he praised the togetherness of the V4 countries and suggested that the V4+ format meetings that took place during the Slovak V4 presidency should be continued. He pointed out the need to renew the European Union and the fact that it should not be allowed to make decisions based on ideologies instead of rationality.
Elżbieta Witek, Marshal of the Polish Sejm, praised the mutual support between the Visegrád countries and emphasised that we should ensure that the voices of the V4 are heard in the European Union and that these countries are treated as equal partners according to the equal rights of member states.
Bogdan Borusewicz, Deputy Marshal of the Polish Senate, stressed that the V4 cooperation, including the coordination of efforts to establish the North-South connection and the enlargement of the European Union, also enjoy the support of the Polish opposition.