World begins to perceive Visegrad

PRAGUE, May 5, 2000 -- (CTK) The Visegrad Four nations becoming "equal" in the eyes of Europe is particularly important for Slovakia which has been somewhat lagging behind in the process of integration into the two most significant Euroatlantic structures - NATO and the EU, Hospodarske noviny wrote yesterday.

The three other Visegrad countries, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were admitted to NATO in March 1999 and were invited to start EU admission talks in late 1997, while Slovakia got the invitation last December only.

The grouping was initiated by then Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel and was launched in mid-February 1991 in the Hungarian historical town of Visegrad with a declaration which was signed by Havel, then Polish and Hungarian presidents, Lech Walesa and Arpad Goencz, and the three countries' premiers.

The three countries became four after Czechoslovakia split in 1993. Cooperation however started to dwindle after some time also because then Czech premier Vaclav Klaus (ODS) was opposed to closer cooperation in the NATO and EU integration drive, placing emphasis on each country acting on its own.

"In the early 1990s many western politicians needed language advisers to help them pronounce or write the word Visegrad. Now the name of the taking root not only in both the vocabulary and awareness of European political tops, and it is more and more present in their concrete activities," Homolova writes.

She says that this was also demonstrated by yesterday's meeting between the four Visegrad premiers and French Premier Lionel Jospin in Budapest, which took place less than one week after the same politicians had a meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Gniezno, Poland.

Homolova writes that on both occasions the Visegrad countries were addressed as a whole and were "treated" as equal partners. "This joint attitude to the V4 nations by EU countries is more and more frequent." Homolova points out that EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, after his meeting with Slovak deputy premier Pavol Hamzik in April, even said that it was "desirable" that the Visegrad countries enter the EU together and Schroeder in Gniezno rejected special support for Poland on its integration into the EU.

The placing of the four Visegrad countries on an equal footing "fulfils one of the main goals of the V4 countries which gave an impulse to the resurrection of the Visegrad idea in 1998 - to help Slovakia make up for the 'lead' of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary," Homolova writes.

"The Visegrad Four has of late been busy working for expanding mutual regional cooperation which would gradually result in a joint 'Visegrad' area. It would at least help the world better identify the Visegrad region (as an average American will find central Europe rather than Slovakia)," Homolova writes.

"Besides, we could demonstrate - to Europe first of all - that the real importance of the word integration is not strange to us," she adds.

Original article