The closing event of parliamentary cooperation during the Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group, i.e. the Informal Meeting of the Presidents and Speakers of Parliaments of the Visegrad countries and the football tournament of the V4 parliamentary teams, were organised by the Hungarian National Assembly between June 21-23, 2018 in Balatonfüred. The Informal Meeting of the Presidents and Speakers of Parliaments was attended by Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly László Kövér, Speaker of the Czech House of Representatives Radek Vondráček, President of the Polish Sejm Stanisław Karczewski, Deputy Speaker of the Polish Sejm Beata Mazurek, Speaker of the Slovak National Council Andrej Danko and – as a guest invited - Speaker of the Austrian National Council Wolfgang Sobotka.
The Meeting began as László Kövér – assessing the more significant results of the parliamentary cooperation of the Hungarian Presidency of the Visegrad Group – emphasized that the Hungarian Presidency successfully identified areas where the Visegrad countries can act together and where their positions are identical concerning their EU membership and Central European identity. These areas are reflected both in the conclusions adopted by the V4 parliamentary committees by consensus and by the Joint Declaration of the Presidents and Speakers of Parliaments adopted in March. The Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly underlined that – from the perspective of the V4 countries’ parliamentary cooperation – relations have never been as visible and as intensive as in the past period. The visibility of the parliamentary cooperation of V4 countries was advanced by forwarding the declarations adopted by consensus to the EU's national parliaments and the EU institutions, and also by the launching of a V4 website - in Hungarian and in English - under the auspices of the Hungarian National Assembly. The conferences of experts, the higher level of cooperation among the parliamentary libraries, the series of cultural and musical programmes on Kossuth Square and the publication assessing the results of the work of V4 parliaments and featuring analyses on the future of the European Union all contributed to a heightened visibility.
The agenda of the Informal Meeting of the Presidents and Speakers of V4 Parliaments – in conformity to the agenda of the European Council at the end of June – featured the issue of the EU’s multi-annual financial framework for 2021–2027 and the issue of migration.
In his introductory remarks to the first topic, László Kövér concluded that the best interest of the V4 countries is a strong, secure and competitive EU, and that they envisage the new multi-annual financial framework as reflecting these principles. As regards competitiveness, the V4 countries welcome the increase in funds to be dedicated to innovation, research and development and digitalisation, but do not accept that the new areas should be funded at the expense of traditional policies (Common Agricultural Policy, Cohesion Policy). The Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly pointed out that the proposal of the European Commission fails to reflect common priorities, does not ensure the same support to traditional policies as before, and the Visegrad countries and Baltic states would be most punished among Member States as the proposal reflects an overall more than 20% reduction in the funding they would receive under the Cohesion Policy. The Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly underlined that the next multi-annual financial framework and the political will it reflects must both rest on mutual respect, and that the establishment of a mechanism making EU funding an instrument of exercising political pressure cannot be supported. Austria – holding the forthcoming EU Presidency - will play a fundamental role in determining the outcome of the negotiations on the EU’s financial framework mechanism. The V4 countries count on the partnership of Austria’s EU Presidency in making sure that on all issues of political sensitivity, Austria will take the position of the V4 countries into consideration as well.
Concerning the issue of migration, the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly emphasized in his introductory remarks that the focus must remain on halting the migration wave arriving from outside the European Union and on terminating the reasons that cause it. He also pointed out that an effective handling of migration requires that focus is put on areas where the member States agree, and that any continued effort to impose rules like mandatory relocation or the facilitation of legal migration routes would only contribute to the deepening of their division. „However, we do not only have to maintain the protection of the EU’s external borders, but must also strengthen it” –the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly accentuated.
Following the debate on the two topics on the meeting’s agenda, Andrej Danko presented the priorities and events of the parliamentary cooperation of the Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group in the period between July 2018 and June 2019. During its V4 Presidency, Slovakia will focus on internal dynamism, competitiveness, security and the strengthening of the Visegrad Region, which is an organic part of the EU. The Meeting was concluded by the Speaker of the Austrian National Council Wolfgang Sobotka presenting the priorities and planned programmes of parliamentary cooperation under the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union to the participants.
Following the Informal Meeting of Presidents and Speakers of Parliaments, the parliamentary football teams of the V4 countries participated in a tournament in the football pitch of the Balatonfüred Football Club. The tournament ended with the victory of the Hungarian team.
The official meeting of Speakers/Presidents of the Visegrád Group Parliaments took place on 2nd March 2018 in Budapest. The meeting was attended upon the invitation of Kövér László, Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly by Marek Kuchciński, Marshal of the Sejm and Stanisław Karczewski, Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, Milan Štěch, President of the Senate and Radek Vondráček, President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic and by Andrej Danko, Speaker of the National Council of the Slovak Republic. The main topics of the meeting included topics such as the assessment of the V4 Hungarian presidency and the reinforcement of the Visegrád Group parliamentary cooperation. László Kövér, the Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly explained that the official meeting of the Speakers was preceded by an informal meeting of the Speakers, a conference of experts and researchers, as well as the meetings of several standing committees, such as the European affairs, foreign affairs, family affairs, economics, agriculture and defence committees, which all ended with the unanimous adoption of closing documents reflecting shared Visegrád interests. Speaking at the conference, László Kövér highlighted that the topics discussed at the committee meetings – such as the future of the European Union, the EU and the NATO integration of the Western Balkans, the amendment of the postings directive, the next multiannual financial framework, the issue of overcoming demographic challenges, the significance of family policy the reform of the common agricultural policy, the elimination of double standards in food quality, the management of migration related issues and the opportunities for defence cooperation – not only represented joint interests and values of the V4 countries, but were issues of prominent importance for the future and the reinforcement of the entire European continent. The Hungarian Speaker informed his partners that the cooperation between the Visegrád country parliaments has never been as intensive as it was during the period of the Hungarian presidency. He emphasized: the V4 parliamentary meetings and the conclusions adopted there have further cemented the parliamentary relations between the Visegrád countries. He also emphasized the significance of the V4 joint action in defence of European values. Among these he highlighted the enforcement of the subsidiarity principle, as well as the protection of the achievements of European integration such as cohesion policy, the single market built on the four freedoms, the common agricultural policy as well as the common foreign and security policy. He considered it important that Visegrád country parliaments are participating for the first time in an EU twinning program aimed at the integration support for the Moldovan parliament. László Kövér pointed out that a more intensive application of the yellow card procedure, as well as the use of the red card for plans encroaching on their interests should be the tools to strengthen the role of national parliaments in EU legislative processes.
This was the first time that a joint conference of V4 Speakers/Presidents and the Parliamentary Committees participating in the parliamentary programs of the Presidency was organized on the side line of the official meeting of the Speakers. Speaking at the conference, Péter Szijjártó, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade emphasized that the Visegrád cooperation is the closest and most efficient form of cooperation in the European Union. The V4 has become a renowned brand, which captures the attention of the entire European political elite as well as the media. Its voice is heard, and its economic potential makes it a significant actor in shaping European processes. He also spoke about the palpable enlargement fatigue in the EU and in this respect about the necessity integrating the Western Balkans region. He considered energy security to be the most important issue for the near future. He highlighted the role of the V4 countries in representing the Christian traditions and identity of our countries, while he also specially emphasized the importance of a single voice of national parliaments on issues of substance in European life.
After the committee representatives – Richárd Hörcsik, Zsolt Németh, Gabriella Selmeczi, Erik Bánki, Szilárd Németh chairpersons and László L. Simon the deputy chairman of his committee – briefly outlined the results of their committee meetings, the participating Czech and Polish representatives were also given the floor. After this, the Speakers/Presidents signed a Joint Statement in the presence of the press in which they emphasized the right of the Visegrád countries and national parliaments to contribute constructively to the debate on the future of Europe. They agreed that the Visegrád countries are interested in shaping an efficient and more citizen friendly European Union built on a community of strong and successful states. They pointed out that problems stemming from outside of the European Union, such as migration and the refugee crisis, need to be managed in their places of origin. László Kövér informed his partners that he will – in his capacity as the Chairman of the V4 Hungarian Presidency parliamentary cooperation – send the joint statement to the Speakers of national parliaments of the European Union and the leaders of the European Union institutions.
The joint conference of V4 Speakers/Presidents and the standing committees participating in the parliamentary programs on 2nd March 2018 concluded the series of official events organized under the auspices of the parliamentary dimension of the Visegrád Group Hungarian presidency. The V4 presidency will be handed over to the National Council of the Slovak Republic at an informal meeting of Speakers to be organized in June.
Budapest was the venue for the first Meeting of the Presidents and Speakers of V4 Parliaments during the Hungarian V4 Presidency. At the invitation of László Kövér, the Meeting was attended by Stanisław Karczewski, Marshal of the Polish Senate, Andrej Danko, Speaker of the Slovak National Council, Milan Štěch, President of the Czech Senate, and Radek Vondráček, Speaker of the newly formed Czech House of Representatives (Marek Kuchciński, Marshal of the Polish Sejm attended the gala dinner hosted in the Royal Palace of Gödöllő on the previous evening). As the Meeting began, László Kövér, Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly welcomed his partners and thanked the participants for the successful joint implementation of the initiatives introduced by the Polish Presidency. He presented the goals and the programs planned for the Hungarian Presidency. At the Meeting, the Presidents and Speakers of Parliaments discussed potential ways to strengthen the representation of national parliaments in the EU’s institutional structure, and introduced ideas concerning possibilities for the enlargement of the European Union. László Kövér emphasized: the Hungarian Presidency wishes to continue the practice of regular consultations for Presidents and Speakers of Parliaments. The Formal Meeting of Presidents and Speakers will take place on 1st-2nd March 2018, and it is complemented by the meeting of the Committees on European Affairs (September 2017), the meeting of the Committees on Foreign Affairs, the meeting of the Committees on Social Welfare (December 2017), and the meeting of the Economic, Agricultural and Defence Committees (February 2018) of the different parliamentary chambers. In the framework for the cooperation of V4 Parliaments, the Hungarian National Assembly – beyond the meetings of committees – will also organise a working seminar and a conference in the first half of 2018, involving the representatives of academia and civil society. The agendas for the V4 Parliamentary Committee meetings will feature questions related to V4 cooperation and EU policy, while the working seminar and the conference are intended to discuss issues related to the European Union and the future of Europe. László Kövér proposed - as one of the topics for discussion at the working seminar and the conference - an exchange of ideas on the foundations for European values and consequently to adopt of a common stance against the persecutions of Christians. He pointed out: the Hungarian Presidency wishes to achieve that the V4 cooperation – as a brand – should appear in different policies in a positive way, putting forth constructive proposals. László Kövér also said that regular coordination among parliaments, the strengthening of their cooperation and a common stance adopted by the V4 on issues where the V4 position can be expressed internally within the EU and in the EU’s external relations as well are of fundamental importance. He highlighted that the changes having occurred across Europe in recent years necessitate the establishment of a V4 parliamentary rapid reaction group for the subsidiarity check of EU legislative proposals. The Speaker of the National Assembly asked his partners to support his proposal, who agreed to set up such a group at the level of the apparatus. The V4 Subsidiarity Group – with the appropriate political mandate and supervision – could play a decisive role in the development of the relations with EU institutions, especially in ensuring the flow of information. It could also play a role in following up on the activities of the task force established by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on November 14th, dedicated to dealing with Subsidiarity, Proportionality and "Doing Less More Efficiently" method. With the rapid reaction group, the V4 could give impetus to the identification and launching of the - currently as yet unformalised - green card initiative, intended to strengthen the active role of national parliaments – the Hungarian Speaker emphasized. When discussing the possibilities for the enlargement of the EU, he pointed out: the facilitation and acceleration of the European and Euro-Atlantic integration process of the West Balkan region is a question of strategic and security-policy importance for the whole of the European Union. The V4 together - but also at the level of its member states - wishes to be an engine for enlargement – he added. Hungary encourages the establishment of a predictable schedule for the EU accession of Serbia and Montenegro, so that Macedonia and Albania could receive a date for the start of their accession talks already next year, and would also like to allow Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo to see reachable goals in their integration process. He referred to the fact that Hungary has for long been a traditional and committed supporter of practical cooperation and cross-border infrastructural projects in the EU’s Eastern Partnership. Hungary agrees with the differentiated approach concerning Eastern Partnership policy and supports the approximation of countries able and willing to implement the reforms dictated by European integration. Referring to Ukraine’s new law on education, he, however, emphasized: the violation or any restriction of the acquired rights of minorities directly contradicts the requirements of „Europeanism”, thus Hungary – until the point when the restrictions introduced by the new law on education end – cannot support Ukraine’s political ambitions.
The Czech, Polish and Slovak Presidents and Speakers agreed with the proposals and points put forth by László Kövér and expressed their support for them.
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