This week the prime ministers of the Visegrad Four - a loose alliance of 4 central European states -the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland -met to debate the future of the grouping now that all its members have joined the European Union. Contrary to the expectations of those who believe that the Visegrad Group is now obsolete, the prime ministers decided to keep the grouping active within the EU. Radio Prague's David Vaughan spoke to Ivan Jancarek, director of the EU section at the Czech Foreign Ministry about the future role of the Visegrad Four:
"In our opinion Visegrad is some kind of trade-mark which was established in the beginning of the 90s and has proved to be a successful project. During those years serious regional cooperation was established and deepened and that is very important."
One of the ways that the EU seems to work in practice is that different states find allies amongst each other and they form groupings and lobby groups. Now that all four Visegrad member states are EU members are they going to try to form a more or less formal lobbying group for central Europe's interests in the EU?
"The Visegrad group is not a formal alliance. It is grouping of countries which have similar problems, similar possibilities but in some areas they have differing views. When we find that there is a possibility for us to have a common position then why not present it as a joint stand of the Visegrad Four but, most of all, the Visegrad Group is an important platform where we can test our views before we go to an EU session and say this is how we think things should develop. We see Visegrad cooperation as a forum where you can listen, cooperate and sometimes support each other."
Can you give me one or two examples of the fields in which these countries can cooperate?
"For instance, when debating finances and spending. This is an area in which our positions are similar..."
You are talking about trying to find ways of getting EU funds to the new member countries is that it?
"This is definitely one of the possibilities. We think the principle of solidarity should, especially in the next EU budget, be aimed at the new member states. There we will have a very similar position to that of our Visegrad group partners."
At the meeting of prime ministers there was also a strongly expressed commitment to supporting the applications of further countries to join the EU. Is that a common task for the future?
"Definitely, yes. I think that those Visegrad group states which were the first to join NATO proved during the last round of enlargement that they support the open door policy and in the EU it will be the same."
And is there a consensus that one of those countries could be Turkey?
"There is a consensus that Turkey should be given a fair chance."
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