President Zeman attends V4 summit, celebrates 30 years of alliance

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On Monday, Czech President Miloš Zeman flew to Poland to attend a two-day Visegrád Four (V4) summit, which started on Tuesday. On this occasion, the presidents of the Visegrád Group will commemorate the 30th anniversary of this informal regional grouping.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the summit is being held in an isolated presidential residence in Jurata. Polish President Andrzej Duda greeted his V4 counterparts Zuzana Čaputová, Miloš Zemanem, and János Áder with an “elbow bump”.

“At the beginning of his speech at the meeting of the heads of state of the Visegrád Four, Miloš Zeman pointed out the important role of Václav Havel in founding this group,” wrote President Zeman’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček on Twitter.

Ovčáček further reported that Zeman also spoke about solidarity and friendship within the Visegrád Four.

“He pointed out that he had repeatedly defended Poland and Hungary, which constantly face unsubstantiated attacks,” the spokesman wrote, referring to criticisms of the governments in Warsaw and Budapest from the European Union and other international organizations.

In total, three joint sessions are planned at the summit to address energy security and climate issues, economic recovery after the pandemic, and the 30th anniversary of the V4. On Feb. 15, 1991, the then presidents of Czechoslovakia and Poland, Václav Havel and Lech Walesa, and the Hungarian Prime Minister József Antall, agreed in Visegrád on political cooperation.

Already on Tuesday morning, President Zeman participated in the 17 + 1 summit with China, when he connected with representatives of other Central and Eastern European countries via video conference. The summit was originally scheduled to take place last April but was postponed due to the pandemic.

At the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that China was ready to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Central and Eastern European countries. Through this offer, Beijing is trying to revive relations with Central and Eastern European countries after the Chinese government neglected to fulfill its promises about the size of investment in the region.

Zeman also gave a speech at the meeting. He expressed hope that the projects of European cooperation with China, especially the project of the new Silk Road, would be fulfilled.

“I think we sometimes make the mistake of signing various memoranda of cooperation, but it is not always possible to instill these memoranda with specific content. Therefore, I would like to mention the project of the new Silk Road, which I consider a fascinating challenge,” said Zeman.

“Czech companies are undoubtedly ready to participate in this project, and we believe that it will be successful, especially if we, among other things, picture the construction of a high-speed railway connecting China with Europe behind it. And around this railway, new industrial zones, even whole new cities, can grow. Therefore, let us hope that this project will be successfully implemented because this train connection will undoubtedly pass through the countries of Central and Eastern Europe,” he added.

Title image: Poland’s President Andrzej Duda touches ellbows with the Czech President Milos Zeman to greet him for for a two-day summit with the presidents of Hungary and The Czech Republic marking 30 years of the Visegrad Group, an informal body of political and economic cooperation in the region, at the presidential residence in the Hel Peninsula, Poland, on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.(Jakub Szymczuk / KPRP via AP )

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