The annual meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad Group and the Western Balkans

On Wednesday, the annual meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad Group and the Western Balkans took place in Budapest. The V4 Ministers reiterated their continued interest in and support for the Western Balkan region on its EU accession path, as well as their support for those countries in the Western Balkans that aim to achieve Euro-Atlantic integration.

Fotka Visegrad Youth Forum.

You can read the official joint statement of the V4 Foreign Ministers HERE

 

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VYF 2017 is looking for participants!

Are you a student of international relations, security policy, political science or journalism? Are you from one of the V4 member countries or Baltic states and interested in topics like defense cooperation, regional cooperation, or the V4 and NATO in general? Do you want to experience what it’s like to be a real policy maker and help create real policy recommendations? Then we’re looking just for you! Sign up for the Visegrad Forum 2017, a unique project which brings together young leaders and aims to create a platform, which will support an open and informal discussion about current topics!

The project consists of three stages, the first being the e-learning process, during which selected participants prepare for the VYF 2017 conference by studying provided material in order to familiarize with the topics of the conference. The conference itself is the second part of the project and will take place from December 6 until December 8 at the Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. The final conference consists of a panel discussion, workshops and a simulation in the Centre for crisis management at the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations of the Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica. The panel discussion will focus on the relationship between NATO members and non-member states.

The registration form for VYF 2017 is available HERE, with the registration deadline being September 24, 2017.

Click here to view and download the VYF 2017 Infopack

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Pence pledges US support of Baltic nations against Russia

Vice President Mike Pence said the US stands with the Baltic nations against any threats from Russia as tensions continue to flare between the former Cold War foes. Pence made Estonia his first stop on a visit to eastern Europe during which he’ll also visit Georgia and Montenegro, where he’ll meet Balkan NATO members and aspirants. His trip follows recent Russian-Chinese naval exercises in the Baltic Sea and comes before planned Russian military drills in September that have in the past simulated an attack on the region.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine spooked the Baltics and triggered a rethink of NATO’s role in ex-communist Europe. Western troops were added in response in nations such as Estonia and Latvia, unwilling former Soviet republics with large Russian-speaking minorities. While recently backing NATO’s collective-security pledge, President Donald Trump has courted Russian President Vladimir Putin and raised doubts about the U.S.’s commitment to far-away allies. “No threat looms larger in the Baltic states than the specter of aggression from your unpredictable neighbor to the east,” Pence said during his stay in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn. “At this very moment, Russia continues to seek to redraw international borders by force, undermine democracy of sovereign nations and divide the free nations of Europe one against another.”

To read more about the US vice president’s visit to Estonia, click HERE

Source: Bloomberg

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VYF 2017 to be supported by the city of Banská Bystrica

We are pleased to announce that this year’s edition of the Visegrad Youth Forum will be supported by the city of Banská Bystrica, where the event itself will take place once again.

Stay tuned for more announcements!

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Central European states urge EU to speed up enlargement in west Balkans

Seven Central European member states called on the European Union on Monday to accelerate the accession of Montenegro and Serbia to the bloc, saying a failure to integrate the western Balkans could pose a security threat to the whole region. Foreign ministers and deputy foreign ministers of the four Visegrad Group countries — Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic — as well as Austria, Slovenia and Croatia met in Budapest to discuss issues including migration and the situation in the western Balkans and Ukraine. “If we cannot speed up the European integration process (in the western Balkans) … we will have to face serious security challenges in the entire Central European region,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a news conference.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto attends an interview with Reuters in Budapest, Hungary May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Szijjarto said the EU should accelerate its ongoing accession talks with Montenegro and Serbia and should open membership negotiations with the other countries in the western Balkans as well. Albania and Macedonia are EU candidate nations but have yet to start their accession talks, while Bosnia and Kosovo have yet to be granted candidacy status, though both hope to join the EU. The prospect of EU membership has for years been the main driver of reform in the Balkans after a decade of war and upheaval in the 1990s. But with Britain’s vote last year to leave the bloc, the rise of right-wing populism in many EU countries and debate over the future shape of the bloc, further enlargement has been placed firmly on the backburner.

You can read more by clicking HERE

Source: Reuters

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The V4 and Egypt strengthen their cooperation

Hungary, now presiding the Visegrád group, hosted a summit, which brought together the V4 and Egypt on July 4. Viktor Orbán said that the V4 views Egypt as a regional neighbor, while also thaking the Egyptian President for his efforts to stabilize the region’s integrity. Securing the south Mediterranean Sea, blocking migration routes and fighting terrorism are important tasks for the Egyptian authorities, making Egypt a key partner for Central European countries.

The Hungarian Prime Minister stressed that the work done by Egypt in regards to migration and the enforcement border control deserves gratitude from the European Union. The V4 and Egypt also agreed on having greater exchanges and bilateral investments. The V4 also expressed its wish to hold a new meeting of the EU-Egypt Association Council as soon as possible.

To read more about the meeting, click HERE

Source: Visegrad Post

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Poland concludes one-year chairmanship of the V4

Last Friday, Poland concluded its presidency of the Visegrad Group, which also includes Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The political initiatives presented during the presidency and the strengthening of regional solidarity helped confirm Poland’s active role in Central Europe, the Polish foreign ministry said in a statement. The Polish Presidency of the Visegrad Group (V4) showed European partners that the “Group is responsible, determined and actively involved in defending its regional interests”“The Presidency helped confirm Poland’s high involvement and active participation in the Visegrad Group,” the ministry added, while also highlighting the efforts of Poland to focus on European issues during its presidency.

The leaders of the Visegrad Group. Photo: P. Tracz/ Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland/Public Domain

To read more, click HERE

Source: Radio Poland

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Estonian Defense Chief: Cooperation among NATO eastern flank nations critical

During a meeting with colleagues from the Baltics, the Visegrád countries and Ukraine, Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Gen. Riho Terras stressed the imortance of cooperation among countries located along NATO’s eastern flank. “Close defense cooperation among the three Baltic countries and the four Visegrád countries is critical in the present security situation for the defense of the entire alliance, an important part of which are the NATO battle groups deployed to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that can be integrated into the defense forces of these countries,” Terras was quoted by Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) spokespeople as saying.

Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Gen. Riho Terras.

“Ensuring the security of the members of the alliance cannot happen in a vacuum by cooperating with one another alone, therefore we decided at the meeting to continue supporting Ukraine in the future as well,” continued Terras. NATO battle groups intended to strengthen the security of the alliance have been deployed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland since early this year. Hungary, one of the countries of the Visegrád group, will send an infantry company to train in Estonia this summer.

To read more, click HERE

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Could the TSI spell the end of the V4?

The Three Seas Initiative is heavily promoted by its leader, Polish president Andrzej Duda, who is desperate for it to succeed. Could the TSI eventually spell the end of the V4? TSI members – Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – pledged in their founding declaration a year ago to foster regional projects in the areas of energy, transportation, digital communication and economic sectors in CEE. Despite the substantial praise from both Hungary and Poland, the two remaining V4 member countries Slovakia and the Czech Republic aren’t as enthusiastic. To the Czechs and Slovaks, the TSI, especially now, might be a little more problematic.

Výsledok vyhľadávania obrázkov pre dopyt three seas initiative

While they agree with the goal of north-south connectivity, they are cautious – if not suspicious – of the political dimension. V4 is the most important format to Slovakia, whereas the country treats the TSI more like a one time event. For Slovaks, there is no political content in this grouping. And, beyond that, there is no security component and no political dimension for the country. Czech officials have also expressed reservations towards Poland, a country that, along with Hungary, emphasises the East-West divide. The radicalisation of some V4 members also does not help. A member of the Czech ministry of foreign affairs, went even further, claiming that the idea of a Three Seas Initiative is unacceptable because of its 20th century neo-imperial origin.

You can read more about the TSI HERE

Source: EUobserver

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Macron’s EU charm offensive stops at Eastern Europe

Central and Eastern Europe clearly didn’t get the memo about “Macron-mania.” French President Emmanuel Macron earned a rockstar’s welcome at his Brussels debut, telling a packed press conference it was time to “redefine” the European Union’s priorities. But while Germany and other EU states echoed his optimism, the Visegrad Group — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic — were of the opposite mindset. Angered by Macron’s suggestion that they used Europe as a “supermarket,” aides from those countries briefly contemplated calling off a planned meeting with the French president.

Ultimately, the meeting did take place and the Visegrad countries used it to make sure the “new guy” knew what they were thinking. “It’s not the best entrée for a new president — kicking at those with whom you want to engage in dialogue,” said an aide to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. “This is not the way we speak to one another at a European Council.” Despite the apparent early hostilities, Macron, determined to win over Europe after his successful election in France, pledged to work harder to win over friends in Eastern Europe.

To read more one the topic, click HERE

Source: POLITICO

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