During its presidency of the Visegrad Four, the Czech Republic succeeded in settling the group’s disputes with other members of the European Union and demonstrated that it also has a positive agenda. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (ČSSD) said in an interview with the Czech News Agency.
At the same time, he points out that there are issues that the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary disagree on and that the group is not the only format for promoting Czech interests in the EU.
The Czech Republic took over the V4 presidency from Slovakia in the middle of this year and will lead the group by the end of June 2020. One of the presidency’s main priorities was to look for topics where the V4 can play a positive role in the EU and thus contribute to a substantive debate on European issues.
“I think we can continue what the Slovak presidency has started – to settle disputes and try to show that the V4 is not a group of states that just rejects certain things but has a positive agenda as well,” Petříček said.
Petříček pointed out, for example, the recent meeting of V4 foreign ministers with colleagues from the Benelux countries. According to him, the V4 is to call a similar meeting with the Nordic EU members and the Baltic states.
The V4 also intends to jointly support the Western Balkan countries in their bid to join the EU, although France blocked the opening of accession talks with Albania and Northern Macedonia in October.
According to Petříček, the V4 is open to debate with France on the reform of the accession process. Still, the opening of negotiations with candidates must not wait until this reform is approved.
“Our support for the Western Balkan countries is a long-term priority. We want the six countries to have a guaranteed future for EU membership if they fulfill all the conditions,” said Petříček. “The European Union must not leave the Western Balkans. We must motivate the states to continue with the reforms of the rule of law, economy, and social affairs. Finally, such reforms are in the best interest of these states because they improve the situation of their citizens.”
Petříček also stressed that the V4 helps to promote Czech interests in the EU, but it is not the only platform available to the Czech Republic.
“It is also important for us to maintain bilateral relations with states that are key to us in particular areas, such as France in the fields of security and defense, or Germany in the areas of trade, culture, energy,” the Czech Foreign Minister says.
Petříček also rejected some analysts’ statements which claim that Hungary often dominates the V4’s views.
“I do not think that one state in the Visegrad Four would in any way dominate the agenda. It is primarily the presidency that determines the topics,” Petříček concluded.