The heads of governments of Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland and the President of France met on 19 June 2015 in Bratislava. The meeting was one of the highlights of the one-year Slovak Presidency of the Visegrad Group that will come to an end on 30 June 2015.
V4 leaders appreciate the growing attention that France, as one of the leading political and economic powers in Europe and founding member of the European Union, pays to cooperation with the Visegrad Group. V4 countries acknowledge the active role of France in a strong, united and open Europe. Both V4 and France share their commitment to multilateralism, respect of international law and strong preference of peaceful conflict resolution worldwide based on active engagement by the UN and other international organizations.
The meeting brought a fruitful discussion on topics that stand high on both sides’ current political agenda: climate and energy policy in light of preparations of the COP21 conference to be held in Paris in December 2015, economic growth, regional security and EU related issues, such as migration or fight against unemployment.
Ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, all parties underlined their expectations to reach an ambitious result. They expressed full support to a legally binding and universal agreement on climate supported by all the nations of the world, in line with the global goal to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C.
ENERGY UNION/INTERNAL ENERGY MARKET
Both V4 and France emphasized the need to diversify sources and transit routes of energy and at the same time make maximum and cost-effective use of the existing infrastructure. In line with ambitious climate goals and taking into account the role of low-carbon energy sources, there is a need to call for a technologically neutral approach that respects national circumstances.
There was a broad consensus on the need to support the research and innovation programmes in the field of energy. The cooperation between France and V4 countries on the Allegro advanced reactor is an example of a successful joint project embedded in an all-European framework.
V4 and France confirmed the strong support to creating a genuine Energy Union based on true solidarity, mutual trust and coherence with the objectives of energy security, competitiveness and sustainability, and building on the implementation of the agreed 2030 energy-climate package. The process of building the Energy Union has to bring real added value and tangible benefits for the national economies, contribute to synergies within the EU and be assessed also from the point of view of energy prices impacts.
Both sides stressed the determination to complete the Internal Energy Market and in particular the missing energy infrastructure for efficiently fulfilling each dimension of the Energy Union and achieving the agreed 2030 climate and energy targets.
EU ECONOMY/REFORMS/UNEMPLOYMENT/ECONOMIC AND MONETARY UNION
V4 and France strongly welcomed the recent positive signs of economic recovery in Europe that creates conditions for sustainable economic growth on our continent. Both sides agreed on the need to adapt European economies to the globally changing economic conditions by undertaking necessary structural reforms and improving competitiveness via strategies for growth, in particular through investments; they welcome in this regard the recent adoption of the European Fund for Strategic Investment. In respect of the implementation of “Europe 2020: Europe’s Growth Strategy”, all participants agreed to look for ways to better share the expertise and experience from implementation of active labour market policies and creation of quality jobs in their countries.
V4 countries and France will look for ways to increase competitiveness of their economies through joint tailor-made activities, taking also advantage of such EU programmes like COSME, which is focused on enhancing competitiveness of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.
All parties agreed that unemployment in general, and youth unemployment in particular, is both a cyclical and structural concern, with potentially significant long-term consequences. They expressed full determination to solve the extensive problem of unemployment and continue improvement of particular employment policies. In particular, it is important to encourage investment into human resources.
No structural reform agenda can be completed without strong efforts to modernize labour markets. Social investments are crucial for the future, as well as for social policy, employment policy, and also for education to focus on increasing the level of qualifications and skills of citizens to improve their social opportunities within the company and the labour market.
V4 and France consider the free movement of workers and freedom to provide services as fundamental principles of the internal market and important factors for economic growth. They should hence be fully respected. Any abuses and frauds must be fought in the spirit of the existing EU system. V4 and France are ready to work together to prevent them.
General support was declared for the further integration of the Economic and Monetary Union on the basis of responsibility, a strengthened coordination, convergence and solidarity, and while fully associating, in line with the framework of the treaties, all member states which prepare to adopt the euro. V4 and France stressed the need to lay the foundation of a comprehensive economic strategy for the EMU and look forward to considering the report on better economic governance in the Euro Area.
Recognizing the continued tragic events of migrants in the Mediterranean, V4 countries and France agreed that these challenges can only be addressed comprehensively through the adoption of both short- and long-term measures. In this context, they underlined the statement of the extraordinary meeting of the European Council from 23 April 2015 as well as the subsequent roadmap outlining the measures to be taken by member states, the Commission and other EU institutions to prevent further migrant deaths.
Both sides welcome the European Agenda on Migration submitted by the Commission which aims for a comprehensive EU framework to tackle migration. V4 and France recall their support to an EU response based on the principles of solidarity and responsibility, and expect the upcoming European Council (25-26 June) to agree on the measures to be taken in this respect.
V4 countries and France also held a discussion on regional security in light of the challenging aspect of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and its impact on Europe. Remaining committed in support of Ukraine’s unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, they agreed that the peaceful settlement is the only option of resolving the conflict. They called on all parties to swiftly and fully implement the Minsk Agreements. They support the efforts of the Ukrainian leadership to build a modern, democratic and united society.
CSDP/V4 BATTLEGROUP/EUROPEAN DEFENCE TECHNOLOGICAL AND INDUSTRIAL BASE
In view of the upcoming European Council, which will be dedicated to the Common Security and Defence Policy, V4 and France reaffirmed their commitment to pursue an ambitious and comprehensive agenda in the area of CSDP. They aim in particular at strengthening comprehensiveness and efficiency of EU crisis-management tools in order to respond to crises and to remain a credible security provider, including through the newly established V4 Battlegroup to be on standby in the first half of 2016. V4 and France will keep on supporting the development of close relations between the EU and its partners in the East and the South, as well as international organizations, notably UN and NATO, whose decision taken at the 2014 Newport Summit must be fully and swiftly implemented.
V4 and France also share a common commitment to strengthen the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base, in a fair and balanced way and aim at forging further and long-term partnerships between their industries in that sector.
The meeting in Bratislava has shown that the Visegrad Group and France share a number of common interests and priorities. For V4 countries, France is one of the most important strategic partners in Europe. From a European perspective, the Visegrad Group nowadays represents a comparable partner for Paris considering its impact on EU policy-making. Both sides agreed that regular exchange of views on issues of common interest should continue as it brings added value to the already well established bilateral formats. They are also ready to explore possibilities for developing a more practical cooperation at various levels, for example in the field of education, research and innovation or digital agenda, as well as culture./.
¹ Source of English text: Visegrad Group website.