Katalin Novak - Photo: Facebook

Novak: ‘Visegrad cooperation alive and well’

The Visegrad cooperation "is alive and well" and has a long future ahead, the Hungarian president said at a press conference after attending a summit of the V4 countries' heads of state in Prague on Wednesday.

The cooperation among the Visegrad countries has a history of 700 years, and Czechia, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia aim to keep that cooperation and “add new content to it”, Katalin Novak said.

The issue in focus of the meeting was security, said Novak, adding that the Visegrad Group “form a safe island in the heart of Europe” in that respect and they view this “as a treasure” which they want to safeguard in the long term.

Novak said the Visegrad countries’ presidents deemed highly important the protection of EU and its external Schengen borders, effective measures against mass illegal migration and protection against terrorist acts.

Concerning the war in Ukraine, Novak said that the common position of the V4 was that Russia must not win the war. “We stand behind Ukraine and we are trying to provide maximum assistance for it to have the opportunity to protect its country and its people in the war,” she said. Novak said the situation of minorities in Ukraine could not be “subject to negotiation”, and asked her counterparts to pay increased attention to the issue.

Commenting on the “brutal terrorist attack” against Israel, Novak said the four presidents were in agreement on the need to pre-empt an escalation of the conflict and minimise the civilian death toll. She repeated the call to Hamas to release the hostages and welcomed the agreement on a ceasefire and the freeing of hostages. Novak underscored Hungary’s univocal support for ensuring the security of the members of its Jewish community, vowing that the country would continue to guarantee that in the future.

The Hungarian president said they had also discussed ways to speed up transport among the four countries, cut dependence on Russian energy supplies and switch to the use of green-energy. The V4 presidents were in agreement that nuclear energy should be maintained as “a clean energy resource” in future.

Speaking about Europe’s competitiveness, Novak said that without turning around “the negative demographic trends” the chance to maintain and bolster competitiveness was slim.

The president said she had proposed doubling the Visegrad Fund’s annual budget of 10 million euros which would allow providing increased support to programmes aimed at strengthening cooperation among the Visegrad countries and potentially supporting countries outside the group.

Novak noted Hungary’s upcoming EU presidency in the second half of 2024 and Poland’s V4 presidency starting also in next July, expressing hope for the two countries to be “serious allies” during that period.

Asked about funding withheld by Brussels, Novak said it would give cause for concern if unfreezing the funding was “merely a matter of politics” and depended solely on whether “the government of the country in question was liked or not by Brussels”. She insisted that although Hungary had met all the criteria set by the European Commission for releasing the funds, it had not received funds it is entitled to.

“This undermines the trust of citizens in the European Union, not only in Hungary, but also in many other EU member states.”

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