CE Financial Observer: On July 1st Poland has taken over the presidency of Visegrad Group. What are the major challenges this presidency may face, political but also economic?
Marcin Czapliński: The Programme of the Presidency is a comprehensive, detailed document presenting different aspects of V4 activities, ranging from Digital Single Market and Multiannual Financial Framework to the Climate and energy policies, health and science.
The most important topics will be connected with the EU agenda. The Polish V4 Presidency begins in a particular moment. Europe faces difficult challenges and problems. We struggle with the migration crisis, energy security challenge, instability and conflicts in our Eastern and Southern neighbourhood, economic slowdown and macroeconomic disparities undermining EU’s competitiveness as well as deficiencies in the infrastructure. These are well known challenges discussed for quite some time. We are also confronted with the challenge regarding the future of the European Union which has gained a new dimension in the light of the results of the referendum in the UK. The issue of future relations between the EU and the United Kingdom without a doubt will occupy an important place on our agenda.
Strong Voice of the V4 in the European Union is a top priority for our Presidency. We have also identified four other areas:
- Creating Synergies through Extended Dialogue: developing regional cooperation on the basis of institutional and functional synergies.
While stressing a need for effective cooperation between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas we will also continue traditional cooperation with non-European partners.
- Security and Stability of the Region: strengthening cooperation in the field of common security.
“A Better Europe” also needs to be secure. We will be working jointly on implementation of the decision taken at the Warsaw NATO Summit in July 2016.
- V4 Identity and Visibility: building unity on the basis of common heritage and values, social aspect of cooperation, as well as effective communication strategies.
We will be working on strengthening cooperation and understanding between our societies.
- Cohesion and Connectivity: strengthening cohesion and developing cooperation of the V4 (inter alia) by improving transport connections.
We need to reach back to the Visegrad Declaration of 1991. It is in the common interest of the V4 to strengthen cohesion and enhance cooperation by improving infrastructure that connects our countries and – wider – the whole of Central Europe, exactly as it was stated in our founding document.
One can say that our programme is ambitious. But the time we live in requires ambitious steps. Being ambitious is linked with the V4 itself. 25 years ago, leaders of the then three countries: Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland undertook forward looking decisions to strengthen cooperation in order to speed-up the process of transformation from the Soviet-occupied zone to democratic family of European countries. This is how V4 has been created.
Some of the challenges that V4 may face during the Polish presidency are connected with the EU Multiannual Financial Framework after 2020. What are V4 expectations?
One of the objectives of our Presidency is to increase the influence of the V4 on the debate on the review of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020. This debate will be a de facto introduction to negotiations on the EU’s budget after 2020. We will continue the efforts of Czech presidency to ensure the most favourable course of the debate at the EU level and to achieve the implementation of common priorities.
The most urgent economic issue for V4 is agriculture, with particular focus on dairy and meat products. Do the V4 countries have a plan of necessary solutions that will propose to the EU?
Indeed, the Presidency’s priorities include the issue of agriculture. This is a comprehensive topic. Food safety, EU’s long-term agricultural research and innovation strategy, strengthening of the farmers’ position in the food supply chain, promotion of agro-food products, efficient crisis response on agricultural markets will be topics of particular interest during the PL V4 Presidency. There will be a review of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2016 and the preparation for the CAP programming after 2020, covering i.a. the complicated problem of spending effectiveness in the CAP.
Changing situation on agricultural markets, in particular on the dairy and pork market, often requires immediate stabilization measures. The V4 will focus on searching effective solutions of these problems. The Presidency intends to discuss the question of a common position on adjustment of intervention prices with regard to the arable crops and milk markets. Exchange of views on positions of V4 countries with regard to continuation of sugar quota system and achieving a common position on the production charge in the sugar sector is also envisaged.
During the Prague meeting the Polish PM Beata Szydło declared that Warsaw intends to continue most of the issues pursued by the Czechs. Which issues may not be continued?
To some extent the Polish Presidency will base on the achievements of previous presidencies. We will be closely cooperating with the preceding (Czech) and the following (Hungarian) Presidency. As most challenges remain unchanged, Poland will continue efforts of the Czech Presidency to tackle existing problems. However, the situation is dynamic and new and unexpected challenges (e.g. results of the British referendum) determine activities of the Group and make it necessary to adapt proposed actions. Our priority will be to ensure the highest effectiveness of V4 with respect of the interest of all V4 members.
V4 supported the continuation of the UK membership in the EU. The UK citizens decided otherwise. What are the implications of this decision not only to V4 but to the whole EU?
As I have already mentioned the future relations between the EU and the United Kingdom will without a doubt occupy an important place on our agenda. The Visegrad Group countries deeply regret that the citizens of United Kingdom has chosen to leave the European Union. We take note of and respect this sovereign decision. Forthcoming months will be difficult not only for the EU, but also for the UK itself. The new model of cooperation should be negotiated and established and we will have to adapt to a new situation.
On the other hand we believe that the negative result of the UK referendum does not bring into question the whole European project. We must now discuss the future course of the Union and our expectations for a strong Europe. Any and all future negotiations must be well considered. We must ensure that Europe remains strong; and not just as the EU, but as the continent itself. A constructive vision worked out by the V4 countries should inter alia take into account proposals regarding the strengthening of the EU’s solidarity, flexibility, cohesion and of the subsidiarity principle. Solutions to strengthen the EU’s competitiveness and to prevent internal divisions will be of key importance.
In Prague the leaders of the V4 group put a lot of attention to Ukraine and call for a launch of a Regional Development and Protection Program (RDPP) for Ukraine. What are the details of this Program?
The V4 countries are concerned about the situation in Ukraine and the constantly growing number of the internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Ukraine is and will be confronted with a broad number of migration induced challenges, which require a coherent, coordinated and comprehensive response that goes beyond the current focus on IDP-emergency related actions. In order to address these challenges V4 countries endorse the idea of urgently launching a Regional Development and Protection Programme for Ukraine. Such a program should be carried out by a consortium of Member States, in a close cooperation with the Commission, the Ukrainian government and international organisations.
The V4 is ready to lead RDPP and will also actively contribute to this programme. We encourage other EU Member States to support this initiative.
At the same time the leaders stressed that V4 countries are against the mandatory quota of migrants and called for a reform of Dublin system. Will V4 be successful in this?
The Visegrad Group countries are convinced that it is essential to seek common and coherent European solutions of the migration challenge which focus on tackling the root causes of the current migratory pressure, including ending of war in Syria and stabilising the situation in Libya.
Effective measures and solutions on these very complex topics must be based on consensus among Member States and feasibility. An effective functioning of the Dublin system is a must. Therefore, an incremental and result-oriented reform of the Dublin rules remains a priority of the V4. However, the proposals based on a mandatory system of relocation of refugees are in our opinion counterproductive. Not only do they further divide Member States but also they simply do not work in reality. We need more balanced and more realistic take on Dublin reform. We are convinced that strengthening of the Dublin system should follow an evidence-based step-by-step approach focused on practical improvements rather than on attempts for revolutionary systemic changes with no real added value. We are prepared for a constructive and conclusive discussion on the Dublin reform and believe that it is possible to find an effective and satisfying solution of the problem.
All leaders stressed in Prague the importance of a NATO summit in Warsaw. In the final statement V4 countries expect the Summit to enhance partnership co-operation. Did they talked about defence expenses during the Prague Meeting?
The final statement adopted during the June V4 summit in Prague reflected the scope of topics raised by the Prime Ministers also as far as V4 cooperation in defence is concerned. The defence spending has not been tackled directly – it is a subject of ongoing consultations between the V4 Ministries of Defence.
The final statement after the Prague meeting, as all such statements, is very general. Are there any details on the discussed issues or decisions taken?
Meetings of this format offer a forum for discussing topical issues – they do not necessarily conclude with ground breaking decisions. Besides providing a platform for direct personal consultations between the heads of governments, the June V4 Summit in Prague was also an occasion to symbolically sum-up the Czech V4 Presidency and announce priorities of the new Poland’s V4 Presidency.