Poland and Hungary have promised to take over some Czech COVID-19 patients if necessary, according to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who made the statements following Wednesday’s summit of the Visegrad Four countries in Krakow, Poland.
In addition to the pandemic, the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary also celebrated the 30th anniversary of the group’s establishment and discussed cross-border digital cooperation.
“People in our country are frustrated, they do not want to respect the measures. The situation in hospitals is not good. I would like to thank Poland and Hungary for the promise that they are willing to provide their hospital capacities if necessary,“ Babiš said at a subsequent press conference.
Czechia could transport patients from western Bohemia, where the situation in hospitals is critical, to Germany. However, the state has so far decided not to use the offer and has sent several doctors to the Cheb hospital to help.
The coronavirus pandemic was the central topic of the meeting. The prime ministers also discussed vaccination against COVID-19 and the lack of vaccines in the European Union.
“We have to save the lives of our fellow citizens and we do our best for it. Vaccination is the most important topic,“ added Babiš.
“We still need vaccines in February and March to get rid of the pandemic as soon as possible,” added Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
The coronavirus pandemic played a key role
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated that the issue of the vaccine should not be addressed from a political point of view. “It’s not western or eastern. It’s either good and safe, or it’s bad. And we want a safe vaccine, but fast,“ stressed Orbán.
Orbán, like other heads of government, thanked his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki for organizing the meeting and cooperating.
“A Pole cannot do anything better for a Hungarian than to invite him to Kraków. It was a place where we still ran to breathe fresh air during the totalitarian regime,“ he said.
Babiš’s Slovak counterpart, Igor Matovič, also described the dire situation in his country. “We are having a very difficult time. The problems we had a year ago suddenly changed. When I was elected, I had no idea that we would get COVID and everything related to it. Slovakia is at its worst, it is a direct result of the fact that we have almost a 100 percent share of the British mutation,” he said. In the Czech Republic, the same mutation is spreading quite rapidly as well.
According to Matovič, over the years, the cohesion and importance of the V4 group of countries has become apparent. He noted that after the partition of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia was perceived as a “black hole in Europe”, but other partners from the group supported and helped his country.
“The Visegrád Four is a timeless project. I want to wish V4 to be strong even when we are not here,” concluded the Slovak prime minister.
All prime ministers agreed that the V4 group, which celebrated its 30th anniversary on Monday, is successful and a force to be reckoned with in the European Union.
Cohesion, solidarity, and competitiveness
“Our complex history has given us our new strength. The V4 itself has been much stronger over the last five years than ever before. Over the years, cooperation has strengthened in many areas, most notably solidarity between states. Commentators say that we are the locomotive of economic growth throughout Europe, and it is true,“ said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki about the functioning of the group, mentioning, for example, low unemployment, rising wages, and improving conditions for business and investors.
Babiš pointed out that the V4 is not a political group, but an economic bloc. “I am convinced that we are working very well. We are fighting for the interests of the citizens, but at the same time, we are fighting together for the interests of Europe. We are Germany’s first economic partner. Our region has creative, great, and hardworking people. We have had success,” he said.
On the occasion of the anniversary, all prime ministers signed the V4 Annual Declaration and also the Declaration on Digital Cooperation.
“We have a challenging world ahead of us, but I am convinced that in a spirit of solidarity we will be able to enter a new era of post-COVID-19 with the hope of a better future. The world and Europe must show solidarity and courage to achieve greater economic growth,” the Polish prime minister concluded.
According to Orbán, the way to achieve the goals is the competitiveness of the group within Europe. “We want to be competitive. The secret of Central European competitiveness is to be one step ahead. In that sense, we can also use the fact that Mateusz and Andrej have experience from their work as ministers of finance,” he said.
Title image: Prime ministers from central Europe Igor Matovic of Slovakia, left; Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, center right; The Czech Republic’s Andrej Babis, second right and Viktor Orban of Hungary, right, with European Council President Charles Michel, center left, following a news conference at a meeting marking 30 years of central Europe’s informal body of cooperation called the Visegrad Group, at a conference center in Krakow, Poland, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)