The political section of the Model conference 2017 met with a specialist on the issues of the Visegrad partnership during the negotiations on Wednesday, in the form of round tables.
The negotiation party focusing on the Visegrad group invited Tomáš Strážay from the Slovak Foreign Policy Association to be its guest. In terms of research, Mr. Strážay deals with the regional cooperation in Central Europe, with emphasis on the Visegrad group. He’s also the co-founder of the regional think-tank platform V4 Think-Visegrad.
Dobrý deň, Dobrý den, Jó napot a Dzień Dobry. The greetings in all four languages of the V4 were heard from the expert in the very beginning. After the introductory words of the Chairman of the Political section, he expressed appreciation for the organizing of such an event like the Model conference. Strážay emphasized that the grouping of the four close countries currently faces many challenges. Those are mainly the migration crises, questions related to the shrinking Europe after the potential leave of Great Britain, but also the potential enlarging of Europe, the safety of our area, global responsibility and the impact of the results of the American elections. The expert also emphasized a greater chance of Slovakia’s voice being heard thanks to the potential power of Poland in the context of the V4. In the following part he appraised the decision of the members of the section for the four main areas of negotiations.
He evaluated the choice of the issue of identity as an extremely important step, especially after the 25 years of cooperation. He reacted positively also on the other three areas of negotiations. His “favourite” was the area of infrastructure. It is here that he sees the unused potential- moreover the last years have even caused a regression in this area. Also because of this he suggests outlining these subjects as a future political priority in the next years.
The following minutes of the Wednesday meeting were dedicated to looking at the individual categories of the prepared draft of the Memorandum. After the opinions of the four representatives of the delegations were expressed, the expert invited was the next to react. The introduction was aimed at the subject of identity. He appraised the opinions on the current happenings from the countries of the V4. He also reacted on the potential expansion with Austria: “The entry of Austria into the V4 is mentioned from its very establishing, however it stagnated because of the lack of interest of Austria. During this period the cooperation of the V4 was affected by the negative development in the SR. The Austrians subsequently introduced their own form of the Regional partnership (2001), which wasn’t successful, but currently they’re interested in the dynamics. “
Strážay was also interested in the suggestion of strengthening the developmental help, cooperation in tourism or the cooperation between international universities. He mentioned that a similar cooperation has already taken place at the University of Matej Bel in Banska Bystrica. He sees potential also in the area of building up its image- according to the expert the V4 doesn’t have to be ashamed of being at this position, also not in comparison to for example BENELUX.
The second area focuses on crisis management, defence and safety. This time as well the delegations presented their opinions and views on this subject and afterwards this was followed with Strážay’s comments on the individual points. He reminded us that in terms of the finances going into the defence system, Poland is the only country in the V4 that fulfils its obligations (2% GDP, Slovakia-1.18%). The guest also praised the good cooperation in crisis management, during floods, disasters, fire services, sectoral priorities and its other support is, according to him, also relevant. He sees potential in transmitting transformational experiences, for example in the Baltic region.
The delegations also mentioned the air force- a cooperation is present, however common safety isn’t formalized, but in the terms of NATO it of course functions. Lastly Strážay answered questions related to the rapid-reaction forces- and that for humanitarian purposes the intention no longer exists.
The third area is the subject of energetics and environmental safety. This is the one Strážay considers to be one of the most important in the context of negotiations, but at the same time he sees the issue as politically sensitive. According to him every country in the EU can maintain an energetic mix (Poland-coal, eliminable emissions, the Czech Republic, Hungary- nuclear energy). He also reminded the participants for example the Polish completion of a power station, where the issue is finding sufficient funding. The construction, according to him, is financially difficult, the returns take a long time, and if the price of electricity will go down the return of investments will be prolonged and thus there will be a disproportion. He thinks that it’s also necessary to consider gas pipelines going to the north, and Poland could in time also focus on Norwegian gas, the extension of LNG terminals or the import of American gas.
He also highlighted the recent events- the V4 scored best before Paris, where it put forward the warning of complying and gradually building on the obligations. The final area was the area of infrastructure. As it was mentioned before, Strážay views it as a great area for progress, negotiations and turning the subject into political priorities. His recommendation is the orientation on the North-South connection. He pointed out the existing projects and plans like for example the Via Carpathia, however the diplomatic effort of other countries will be necessary to explain the situation of the Czech delegation. There’s also a project planned, that gained the support of Chinese investors and financier- it’s about a connection between Belgrade and Budapest. According to Strážay it’s very important to connect other areas and countries in the context of the theme, not only those in the Visegrad Group.
In the end the guest expressed his thanks for the invitation and he wished the organizers of the event, and especially the members of the Political section, a successful progression of the event itself. We hope that he will also find the time for the actual day of the event- the 5th April 2017.
Photo: Denisa Rášová