The place of Central European countries in the EU - the Visegrad dimension of their presence and activities
the International Conference
Collaboration Between Visegrad Group Countries and their Place in the European Union - The Impact of Shifts in Ruling Coalitions on Defining and Implementing Foreign Policy Goals
OŚRODEK MYŚLI POLITYCZNEJ
Kraków, 15 October 2011
The place of Central European countries in the EU: the Visegrad dimension of their presence and activities
Dr. Csaba Törő
Hungarian Institute of International Affairs
The practice and general features of the V4 within the EU
The key question concerning the feasibility and utility of co-operation after accession was determined by the nature of the enlarged EU and the relevant patterns of co-operation expressed in the changing geometry of coalitions of Member States built around identified shared interests in each policy area. Even if the parties agreed in principle on the desirability of continued co-operation in the specific context of the Union, it remained uncertain if any permanent and distinct formation of the four Central European states within the EU could have viability as the conduit of specific coinciding regional interests. Alternatively, the new environment could serve to reinforce the centrifugal forces of diverse interests, where the Visegrad Group would have survived only as a vehicle for internal cross-border co-operation within the cluster and lost its relevance in the external aspects of co-ordination.
One of the most important changes for the V4 countries was the move from passive recipients of EU policies to potentially active participants in the formation of common policies: instead of simply taking the results of decisions made by others, they were now entitled to shape and make the decisions together with other members. Although with varying degrees of efficiency and inspiration, the opportunities for Visegrad countries to make their own contributions to EU policies individually or as a group opened up with their formal inclusion into the decision-making machinery of the Union. Since the dominant form of decision-making in the EU (with the exceptions of common foreign and security policy, and other issues expressly identified in the treaties) is governed by the rule of qualified majority voting (QMV), the modalities of policy-making in the EU are determined by consensus formation and coalition-building to reach the threshold of required number of concurrent votes or ensure the composition of blocking minorities. Depending on the issue at stake, the final shape and content of any compromise and co-operation are equally likely to rely on temporary, interest-based coalitions or stem from permanent formats of regional concerts like the Benelux or the Visegrad groups of EU member states. In any case, the composition of coalitions and concerts reflects the occasional or durable convergence of interests, priorities and choices within the given configuration of EU Member States with regard to the subject matter upon which a decision-making is to be made.
Besides the thematic and sectoral meetings in the actual Presidency country of the Visegrad Group at various levels, the operation of the Council offers an additional terrain of particular importance where regular V4 consultation and co-ordination on current issues from the EU agenda can take place depending on the importance or the urgency of the policy debate requires. The weekly meetings of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), the Political and Security Committee (PSC) and the numerous thematic working groups deliver the opportunities when concerted V4 positions and proposals may be represented. Since this continuous operation of decision-making processes calls for constant attention and opinion from the Member States, efficient participation and advancement of shared interests demand synchronised approaches among the V4 countries in tune with the cycle of EU policy formation either at the preparatory or the conclusive stages. Consequently, after their EU accession, the talking points of most V4 consultative gatherings at each – ministerial, ambassadorial or expert – level have been dominated by issues that appear on the agenda of Council sessions and of the meetings of heads of state and government in the European Council. This tendency is equally valid for sectoral and foreign policy co-operation as well.
With regard to particular issues or policy debates within the Union which are of particular interest or relevance for the Visegrad Group as a whole, the result of quadrilateral co-ordination may emerge in the form of joint position papers. In accordance with the diplomatic mode of operation within the European Union, by these instruments of official discourse the V4 countries address matters of shared preferences through the presentation of their common stance on policy issues or specific questions. These written contributions with the combined weight of argument from all four of them aim to influence the definition of policy responses or the elaboration of institutional solutions.. In this manner of collective participation in EU policy formation, the Visegrad countries can bring their distinct perspectives and priorities into the multilateral discourse shaping the content of the final outcome of decision-making. In illustration of this kind of concerted stance on a particular aspect of some larger field of policy-making at the level of the Union, the V4 partners tabled their joint position paper upon the invitation by the European Commission to all Member States to contribute to strengthening the eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2007. In another example of the delivery of shared V4 expectations and preferences in a written notice, the Visegrad Group presented its unified position on the issue of European External Action Service (EEAS) to other Member States and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in response to an invitation addressed to all Member States by the European Council to encourage national deliberations on the new foreign policy instrument of the Union. On other occasions, the Visegrad partners directly address the European Commission through joint letters to the responsible members of the EU executive body in order to stimulate policy debate or encourage the continuation of certain favourable solutions – such as EU financial support for energy infrastructure projects – in fields of shared importance for all the V4 countries.
As the highest political level and, quite likely, the most consequential context for the orchestration of Visegrad positions within the Union, the heads of V4 governments have developed a habit of congregations prior to the meetings of the European Council. The consolidating pattern of preliminary “Visegrad summits” in preparation for the plenary discussions in the European Council has become a discernible practice among the four partners. At their latest summit in July 2010, the V4 prime ministers pledged to intensify their joint representation within the Union and meet regularly ahead of EU summits. Admittedly, the V4 replicated an existing tradition of among various members of the Union to co-ordinate before European Council meetings either in institutionalised format such as the Benelux group or in regular but informal bilateral format performed by the French-German duo.
The occasional significance and potential impact of V4 co-ordination on EU decision-making even at the level of ministers or the heads of state and government was highlighted by the reaction of the French president to the co-ordinative meeting of the Visegrad Group before the European Council which was convened to decide upon the Union’s proposal for the Copenhagen climate conference in December 2010. After the EU summit, the head of the French state expressed open irritation at the prospect of prepared and concerted positions of the Visegrad members of the Union warning that “if they have to meet regularly before each Council that could raise questions”. His comment reflected concerns about the consequences of not one particular occasion, but rather those of an emerging practice with the inherent possibility of more efficient representation of V4 preferences even in opposition to those Member States which conventionally dominate the scene and shape the outcome of decisions at the highest level. As one of the regular participants in the traditional close co-ordination of the largest Member States, the French president found the replication of the same practice among smaller members inappropriate and potentially disturbing to the well-rehearsed operation of the EU summits orchestrated by the largest members.
Apart from another sobering example of double-standards, the French reaction illustrated the recognition of the potential consequence of the synchronization of Visegrad positions as the articulation of interests from a particular subset of EU members with an established facilitating mechanism for co-ordination. It became apparent that the representation and promotion of coinciding objectives of the four Central European countries in their V4 format could stand much better chances in the face of political, economic and psychological pressure from the largest Member States in their role as the traditional protagonists of the EU concert.
V4+ formats: Visegrad co-operation with third parties from inside and outside the Union
Already in their 2004 declaration of continued co-operation, the Visegrad countries emphasised their commitment to close co-operation with “their nearest partners in the Central European region”. Geographic vicinity seemed to invite natural collaboration with neighbours though without clear contours and content. Outside the not exactly defined Central European neighbourhood, further “countries within the wider region” (the Baltic republics for instance) and “other regional groupings” (the Benelux or the Nordic Council just to mention the most obvious) were identified as possible partners for the Visegrad Group on specific areas of common interest.
V4 co-ordination with external partners could take place at all levels of contacts. These platforms can be organised either within the Visegrad countries, normally hosted by the acting presidency state, or in foreign locations according to the agenda and the practical needs of co-operation. Meetings of V4 ministers, political directors of foreign ministries, ambassadors and consuls in combination with their counterparts from individual partner countries or groups of states offer opportunities for the presentation of concerted Visegrad Group positions, objectives and initiatives.
One of motives of the V4 invitation to various partners for consultations to determine and elaborate the common grounds for co-ordination and joint positions with the Visegrad countries have resulted in various encounters and co-operation initiatives between the V4 and their partners. Without the enlargement of the Visegrad Group, this solution offers an answer to the need for co-operation and co-ordination on larger scale in diverse issues when an enhanced coalition of partners may seem advisable to achieve or reinforce V4 goals. These extended meetings contributed to better representation of common interests and broadened the perspectives for co-ordination of the entire Visegrad Group reaching beyond its own limited circle of countries without the need for permanent engagement of any partner in co-operation across the full board.
Although the formal extension of the V4 has not ever been considered as a serious option for operation since its creation, the Visegrad partners proclaimed their willingness in 2004 – later demonstrated in practice – to support broader collaboration with third parties in the so-called “V4+ formats”. In these constellations, the V4 countries appear as a group acting in concert in its interaction with external partners. Co-operation through these formations can be introduced and maintained for different reasons and with various sets of partners. The range of these partners for the Visegrad Four envelops individual states, group of states (the three Baltic or the GUAM countries) as well as regional arrangements (Benelux Union or Nordic Council) from within and without the European Union.
One group of countries that meets the V4 regularly as an informal but discernible composition of partners is the trio of EU Member States on the Eastern shores of the Baltic Sea (B3 = Estonia + Latvia + Lithuania). Their co-operation with the Visegrad Group in the V4+B3 format represent an important configuration of V4+ and will be examined in more details in the following section.
Another cluster of states that has undertaken to develop relations with the V4 as group is the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Azerbaijan) constellation that partly overlaps the range of Eastern Partnership countries, but represent a more formalised set of partners. It held its first formal meeting with the Visegrad Group in Athens on the margin of the OSCE Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in December 2009. The occasion was convened to discuss the prospects and means of further co-operation between the two regional formations.
Apart from state parties either as individual partners or as parts of distinct political clusters of countries, certain regional frameworks within the Union can provide the benefits of experience for the V4 to learn from their best practice as closely knit subsets of EU members with a history of sustained co-ordination before and also within the Union. Regional trilateral (Benelux Union) or multilateral (Nordic Council) frameworks serve as natural conduits for their simultaneous engagement in co-operation with the Visegrad Group. Co-ordination between the V4 and the Benelux and Nordic clutches of EU Member States can be expected to deliver some discernible results in the implementation of common V4-Benelux projects in the framework of the Eastern Partnership and/or in the Western Balkans. Dialogue with the Nordic Council could help the Visegrad countries to tap into the accumulated and combined experience of the Nordic states in environmental and energy (efficiency and safety) policies..
In almost all sectors of Visegrad co-operation V4+ meetings can be convened to engage third countries in collaboration on issues of shared common interests. Individual states may be invited to thematic meetings either as contributors to, or recipients of the results of co-ordinated initiation or implementation of policies goals. The subject matters on the agenda of V4+ occasions determine the combination of Visegrad countries with external partners. Few instances of issues and possible corresponding composition of V4+ formations may be mentioned as illustration.
A) Regional development
When the national practices and experience in regional development and the use of EU structural funds come under examination at ministerial meetings, Romania and Bulgaria usefully complement the four Visegrad states as other recent EU members with strong vested interests in consultation and possible co-ordination to ensure the sustained availability and most efficient use of these resources from the budget of the Union
B) Energy policy
V4+ co-operation on some of the sectoral issues can assume great significance when related to the matters that may determine the underlying condition of economic performance and strategic stability of participants. Among these matters of comprehensive importance, issues of energy security, supply connection and the operation of energy markets – at regional and at European level alike – stand out as prominent areas for V4 co-ordination in their intra-European and extra-European aspects. The above identified issues of energy policy can not be efficiently coordinated without due consideration to co-ordination with partners and the structural conditions beyond the V4 cluster of states. In recognition of the need to “energise” broader regional consultations, the Visegrad Group initiated the V4+ Energy Security Summit in Budapest in February 2010. In addition to the V4 officials, high ranking representatives from countries of Central- and South-Eastern Europe from within the EU (Austria, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria) and from outside the Union (Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina) were invited to the extended Visegrad gathering in search of co-ordinated policy responses with regard to common energy supply challenges on the basis of regional co-operation and within the context of EU policy goals. These were envisaged to include strengthened co-operation in the further integration of gas networks and diversification of routes as well as sources of supplies, the promotion of North-South interconnections through all V4 countries, the acknowledgement of common regional interest in the update of EU energy action plan and joint efforts for the allocation of EU financial resources to energy infrastructure projects. In demonstration of progress on some of the identified aims in the conclusion of this V4+ energy discussion, the Hungarian-Romanian gas interconnector opened in October 2010 was built as an instance of bilateral contribution to the practical implementation of systematic reinforcement of regional gas supply links. In line with stated priorities, the North-South connection of gas transportation networks into and across the Visegrad area is currently under way as elements of the piecemeal composition of energy linkages reach different phases of construction: conclusion of the underlying intergovernmental agreement (Hungarian-Slovakian pipeline), implementation (Czech-Polish link) or completion (connecting pipeline between Croatia and Hungary).
C) Eastern Neighbourhood
The Eastern Partnership, formally launched as the Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in May 2009 in Prague, represent another issue area where the Visegrad Group naturally resort to V4+ formats to extend the discussion and co-ordination in this field to interested partners from within and without the Union. The extended platform with the V4 at its core could possible include EU members with expressed intentions and willingness to lead or participate, and the target countries of the partnership proposal. Although the idea to reinvigorate and differentiate the Eastern aspects of the ENP was not raised as a visionary V4 proposal by as the policy design of the duet of Sweden and Poland, the Visegrad countries as a group quickly embraced and internalised the initiative as the new focus of their previously emphasised common interests in this dimension of European foreign policy in co-operation other EU Member States. Some “Eastern partners” (Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus) have been offered separate occasions to meet the Visegrad Group in individually tailored V4+ formats. In its largest extended version of V4+ congregation of foreign ministers so far, the representatives of the Visegrad Group as the core cluster of the event invited all the heads of national diplomacies of the EaP countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) together with the most probable directly interested EU members (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden) and the institutional representation of the Union by the 2010-2011 Trio Presidency of the Council (practically Spain and Belgium, because Hungary was the host of the diplomatic conference) and by the European Commission (through the presence of its member responsible for enlargement) attended the occasion devoted specifically to the further development of EaP in March 2010. The main objective was to find effective ways and means to advance the implementation of the Eastern Partnership, and to express the commitment of the Trio Presidency to keep the issue high on the agenda.  The participating ministers stressed the need to reinforce energy security co-operation of all participants, agreed to launch an informal group of non-EU countries to support the implementation of EaP and highlighted the importance of connecting the region into European transport infrastructure networks.
D) Defence co-operation
To some limited extent, even defence consultations may also serve to develop and maintain the V4+ format in another dimension of the search for more engagement and inclusion into co-operation with partners such as Ukraine. The invitation to the Ukrainian Defence Minister and Chief of the General Staff to attend meetings of V4 Defence Ministers and Chiefs of General Staff in Prague in 2008 demonstrated the intention of the Visegrad Group to explore possible ways of collaboration and assistance in the reform process of Ukraine in the military realm of security.
The relevance of the Visegrad Group as regional coalition in EU politics and decision-making
Accomplished complex undertakings of policy co-ordination and concerted implementation such as the simultaneous rite of passage to inner core of the European Union in the realm of free movement of persons remain specific and spectacular examples of synchronisation among the Visegrad countries. It displayed the features of rewarding co-operation not only within the V4 cluster but involved further partners from among later EU Member States treading the same path to deeper integration. Qualification for a more advanced class of mutual reliance and openness certainly marked the high point where the Visegrad Group could make the most use of co-operation in its concerted drive as a coalition to get over the demanding standards of admission into the Schengen zone. No other challenge with the same need for co-ordination and simultaneous fulfilment of requirements is in sight for the Visegrad countries within the EU. Membership in the Euro zone (so far only Slovakia has managed to get in), the ultimate enterprise on the way to the completion of their gradual integration into every aspect of the Union needs to be undertaken individually and not as a group. Experiences and lessons could be usefully shared, but each Visegrad state without the common currency yet must meet the criteria through its national economic and monetary performance. Even in the absence of landmark challenges that may call for the concerted demonstration of readiness and ability of the Visegrad countries for higher stages of integration, regular and extensive V4 co-ordination can be expected to prove its continued utility in a variety of fields, at all levels and at any time in the ordinary operation of Union.
Heads of governments, foreign ministers, diplomats and experts from the Visegrad states hold regular meetings and discuss a number of issues on occasions convened for V4 representatives or on the margin of various multilateral congregations within and outside the EU as well. While these scheduled or extraordinary meetings do no guarantee any collective position or its persistent representation within the Union or in any other organisation, these opportunities still offer the potential advantages of an established mechanism for the formation of collective positions and the exercise of concerted policies by the Visegrad partners whenever possible. The importance of the definition, efficient representation and implementation of common V4 interests in every conceivable case increased significantly as the result of recently introduced changes by the latest treaty reform of the European Union.
After the entry of the Lisbon Treaty into force, the European Union has moved clearly into the direction of more supranational character. The reformed treaty framework of the Union has significantly extended the range of matters and policy areas governed by the community method of qualified majority voting (QMV). The nature of decision-making has been significantly altered and shifted towards the increased role of supranational institutions of European politics. Parallel with the scope of QMV decision-making, the role of the European Parliament (EP) has also been extended decisively. Co-decision with the equal standing and participation of the Council and the EP in the law-making process has become the prevalent mode of legislation under the redesigned allocation of competences and institutional powers. Two significant implications of these changes must be taken into account in the Visegrad countries.
The irreversible tendency leading to the full emancipation of the European Parliament as the indispensable partner of the Council with equal legal status in the prevailing mode of future legislation within the Union transformed the political landscape for co-operation among the Visegrad countries within the EU institutional framework if the V4 aspires to exercise discernible influence on the final outcome of policy formation and decision-making. Co-operation and co-ordination of endeavours may be exercised not only at all levels of the Council structure from working groups to EU summits, but within the Committees and in the plenary sessions of the European Parliament as well. If and when the shared interests of the Visegrad partners can be indentified and moulded into a common position, it could be articulated and represented consistently in a concerted manner by the MEPs of these countries regardless of party affiliations. Besides the more familiar ground of the Council decision-making environment, the same importance should be attributed to the EP as the other leg of the legislative process in the co-ordinated promotion of V4 priorities once a unified approach has been attained on any particular policy issue within community competencies.
As to the V4 perspective on decision-making in the Council, the advent of more decision-making by qualified majority leaves less space for protection against unfavourable outcomes by the rule of unanimity in the adoption of decisions by Member States in the Council. The resulting restricted use of national veto in defence of declared “vital national interests” increases the likelihood of minority position for Member States on the losing side of “policy battles” unless agreeable compromises can be achieved or sufficiently forceful coalitions can be assembled to prevent the adoption of unfavourable solutions. The largest EU countries naturally represent the crucial centres of gravity in the process of any decision-making and the formation of interest groups within the circle of 27 members. Smaller members must deliberate carefully and gauge the positions of others. Lonely voices of less sizeable or influential EU countries do not stand much of a chance to change the tune of policy and legislative proposals. There are two options for these smaller members if they want to be heard in the Union dominated by variable geometry and shifting coalitions.
They either create stable alliances with larger Member States or rely on regional groupings such as the Baltic, Nordic, Benelux and Visegrad groups. Both options are built on the presumption that the national preferences continue to coincide among the partners in any of these coalitions. The sustained concurrence of national aspirations and priorities between dominant large Member States and their smaller allies or in regional clusters cannot be taken for granted permanently. It seems more probable and logical that the “missions” will determine the “coalitions of changing composition”. Issue areas and policy fields would determine the combination of Member States in the course of often protracted clashes of interests and concepts before any decision could be reached through the accumulation of necessary (qualified) majority.
Co-ordination and elaboration of timely positions and supportive arguments within the V4 could give rise to the composition of a larger concert of EU countries on timely questions of widespread interests across the Union. In vivid illustration of this occasional generative potential of V4 opinion among other quarters of the Union, the position paper of the Visegrad Group on the EEAS pulled support from several like-minded countries. The articulated expectations of the V4 assumed additional importance as it catalysed the formation of a casual coalition of altogether 15 EU Member States that “broadly allied themselves” with the position of Visegrad countries. In this instance, the position taken and disseminated by the V4 apparently represented not only Central European views but the perception of a larger section of EU membership that surfaced as the Visegrad quartet laid out its joint approach openly. Several other countries lined up to endorse the V4 call for equitable and proportionate representation of the Member States once it had been articulated and addressed to the entire circle of interested parties within the Union. The role of the concerted V4 stance on the emerging EEAS served as the example of mobilisation of an “occasional alliance” with the Visegrad Group at the core of a cluster of EU members converging around particular issues in pursuit of shared interests and principles.
The relative weight of V4 in the EU
The simultaneous admission of V4 countries highlighted certain important distinctions within the Visegrad pack. Prior to their EU membership, the nature of the operation of the group had been sustained in the context of a quadrilateral relationship among entities with formal equality as participants in an intergovernmental co-operation of sovereign states. All participants were equally indispensable for the adoption and implementation of co-ordinated V4 aims and initiatives. Upon their entry into the Union, the equal importance of the Visegrad partners in decision-making and implementation became manifestly qualified inside the European Union. Under the terms of distributed and unequal voting weights of EU members, in their individual capacities the Visegrad partners represent different gravity and potential to exercise any recognisable influence on common purposes and outcomes of co-operation at the level of the Union. EU membership introduced new differentiation into the ranks of the Visegrad countries as participants in policy formation and implementation within a much larger multilateral fabric of co-ordination.
Although the Visegrad co-operation is not confined to EU structures and policies, nevertheless the multilevel governance system of the Union represents the overarching framework of orientation under which the overwhelming majority of their co-ordination and co-operation inevitably began to take place after 2004. Therefore, the weight of each participant in the Visegrad Group had to undergo a reassessment against the backdrop of conditions determined by that framework. The actual differences between the constituent parts of the V4 platform received recognition and gained “special weights” within the EU as the variations in their voting powers determined by the demographic characters of these countries came to be enshrined in the provisions of the Treaty on the European Union after Nice. The accession of the Visegrad countries accentuated the contrast within the cluster.
The apparent asymmetry between the size and population of Poland and those of the other three participants assumed real significance within the Union. The acknowledgement and reflection of the “heavier weight” of Poland by the number of votes assigned to it within the institutional parameters of EU decision-making registered and preserved the stronger potential of Poland to shape policy-making processes in comparison with the individual possibilities of the rest of the V4 Group as new EU members. It had significant impact on the perception regarding the prospects of V4 partnership within the fabric of the European Union. The predictable Polish expectation to take its place in recognition of its voting power within the league of large Member States soon turned out to present a source of potential jealousy and criticism of its ambitions on the part of the three smaller Visegrad countries.
On the other hand, the relative significance of their influence on the result of decision-making is certainly limited in case of each Visegrad country if the number of allocated votes is counted separately. Even in case of Poland, the larger stock of votes at its disposal does not suffice to decisively shape the outcome of decision-making on its own. Nevertheless, the composite weight of concerted V4 votes in the Council equals to the combined voting power of Germany and France. This formal or, more precisely, numerical equality of V4 votes with those of the Franco-German tandem highlights the possible effect of coherent and collective positions of the Visegrad partners in the decision-making of the Union until 2014. This remarkable inherent potential impact of joint voting-powers can be exercised by the combined momentum of individually allocated quotas of national votes as the most significant and occasionally decisive manifestation of the added value of Visegrad co-ordination at crucial moments of EU decision-making.
A brief summary of lessons from the V4 co-operation within the EU since 2004
In pursuit of more efficient definition and promotion of identified common interest, the Visegrad Group can provide the benefits of regional multilateralism in its co-ordinative and co-operative functions within the circle of participants and combine the weights of individual national positions in order to multiply their impact outside their own cluster. The inherent potential of multinational platforms comprising a number of states, even if as limited as the V4, to attain enhanced gravity in international matters through their concerted stances and acts constitutes the rason d’etre for sustained collaboration with or without permanent institutional structures. Since no consultation is obligatory on any issue among the Visegrad partners, any government of the Group may feel free, at any time, to choose not to resort to the V4 framework.
Although the operation of V4 formation entails regular meetings at various levels of government, co-operation within the Group has never come close to institutionalisation despite few proposals from some of the participants. Nevertheless, the meetings that take place as a regular part of the V4 process provide for the opportunity to debate EU affairs and establish whether and to what extent the national positions within the Visegrad Group on particular issues coincide enabling the participants to pursue the concurrent aims collectively. In spite of a consolidated practice of co-operation and the existence of collective interests among the V4 as EU members, a natural dose of divergence may be well expected to surface in many cases. In spite of the permanent or temporary coincidence of their interests in many issues, nothing predetermines their agreement on any of these matters unless the V4 take conscious efforts to hammer out the common points in their respective national policies within regional, European or broader international context.
Notwithstanding the proven utility of the Visegrad Group as a useful and potentially effective platform for the co-ordination of positions, recourse to the V4 framework has never appeared to warrant the adoption of a united stance and univocal representation of Central European positions and perceptions. The essential benefit of the Visegrad formation of states remains its flexibility and availability as the regional political and sectoral co-operation mechanism to identify, co-ordinate and promote the shared V4 preferences wit regard to particular policies. The identified aims and choices can be pursued collectively but the possibility of concerted action does not in any way imply that continued co-ordination would inevitably lead to common positions either on issues of particular EU policy or matter of intra-regional co-operation.
Increasingly often, the four countries must anticipate situations where their interests may differ considerably in policies regarding the internal market or the redistributive instruments of the Union to channel resources for certain commonly agreed purposes. Controversies and divergences among the Visegrad countries do not invalidate the utility of attributed and assumed functions of V4 co-operation. The cultivation of multilateral discourse among the participants of V4 quartet, especially in cases of disagreement, could still yield the valuable benefits of clarity and predictability of their interactions as the Visegrad subset of Member States within the larger and complex institutional and procedural setting of the Union.
As a concert of sovereign states without the formal obligation to discuss any policy or action of the participants, the V4 remains remarkably flexible in its choice of themes and objectives as well as instruments to manage and achieve them. The source of survival and longevity of the Visegrad co-operation may well spring from the very nature of the Group as a platform of choice and not of necessity. Since their collaboration is clearly optional rather than compulsory, participants are not bound “to work through Visegrad or to achieve consensus, but can use it when beneficial”. Within the context of multilevel governance of the European Union, the elaboration of unified positions and joint approaches of the V4 countries is not an end in itself, but rather the manifestation of common denominators in pursuit of their collectively determined interests in the internal or external dimensions of the Union.
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 Presidency Conclusions, European Council, 10-11 December 2009, Para. 3
 Matej Hruska: Visegrad countries step up co-operation on EU funding, EUobserver.com, 17 September 2010
 Visegrad countries hold mini-summit in Brussels, Euractiv.com, 25 March 2010
 Ambassador: Eastern Europe asks for fair representation in EEAS, Euractiv.com, 25 March 2010
 Honor Mahony: Sarkozy warns Visegrad countries not to make a habit of pre-summit meetings, EUobserver, 4 November 2009
 Information on GUAM meetings held in Athens
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 Executive Report of the Polish Presidency int he Visegrad Group, July 2008 – June 2009, pp. 5
 Declaration of the Budapest V4+ Energy Security Summit, 24 February 2010
 Vladimir Socor: Hungary-Romania Gas Interconnector: First Step Towards Region-Wide Network, Eurasia Daily Monitor, 15 October 2010, Volume 7, Issue 186
 Central questions, The Economist, 4 March 2010
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24 November 2008
 Joint Statement of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad Group Countries and Moldova, 25 October 2007
 Executive Report on Polish Presidency in the Visegrad Group, July 2008 – June 2009, pp. 2,
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 Joint Statement of the Ministers of Defence of the Visegrad Group Countries, Prague, 25 April 2008, Para. 1 and 5
 Andrew Rettman: New EU states make bid for more diplomatic clout, EUobserver.com, 10 March 2010
 Gniazdowski, 2005, pp. 81
 In line with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, the current system of calculation – determined in the Treaty of Nice of 2000 – of the necessary qualified majority for the adoption of decisions not requiring unanimity is going to remain in force until 2014.
 Rick Fawn: Visegrad: The Study and the Celebration, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 60, No. 4, June 2008, pp. 684