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Idea of Central European Kings Grows Stronger in Brussels

Bohemian King John the Blind, King Charles I of Hungary and King Casimir III the Great of Poland would probably be surprised. Their vision of close cooperation in politics and economics, which they agreed upon in Visegrad in 1335, and which came to life again on 15 February 1991, is still valid today.

This was obvious at a meeting of the four prime ministers of the Visegrad Four – Petr Nečas, Iveta Radičová, Viktor Orban and Donald Tusk on Thursday, 16 September 2010, shortly before the European Council meeting. This time, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, also accepted an invitation from presiding Slovakia.

It was confirmed once again that these countries share both common priorities and common concerns. The prime ministers agreed not only on support of the Eastern Partnership project and of Western Balkan countries, but also on debates regarding austerity measures in reaction to the financial and economic crisis. The common delicate issue was evaluating economies of countries that have recently introduced pension reforms. These require significant costs, which will reveal themselves through higher deficits of public expenditures. For this reason, the prime ministers jointly drew the attention of Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, to the fact that the same problem will also affect countries that are preparing for such reforms. The breakfast was lively and the debate direct and interesting. As Mr Van Rompuy said at the end, he surely had not participated for the last time.

The countries of the Visegrad Four are also on a common page in other areas. They share a joint interest in cohesive policy, are directly concerned about energy security issues and fight together for greater representation of their experts and diplomats in the institutions of the European Union.

Also, we, the members of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER II) in Brussels are interested in closer cooperation. Our Slovak colleague Ivan Korčok informs us of what is new in the Eurozone, Peter Györkös and Jan Tombinski are at the centre of interest because of the upcoming Presidencies of Hungary and Poland in the Council of the European Union, and I share my experiences from the Czech Presidency in the first half of 2009. We organize joint meetings with “our” commissioners and heads of their cabinets, and we debate with Mario Monti, head of a special advisory group, about barriers on the common market and about our reticent approach to tax harmonization.

Brussels is beginning to perceive our cooperation similarly to regular meetings of the Benelux or Baltic countries. Proof of this came from Herman Van Rompuy's promise to take part in further meetings of the Visegrad Four at the prime ministerial level. It is good that the idea of the three kings finds its advocates even after seven centuries.

Brussels, 23 September 2010

Photo: Karel Pazderka