Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico addresses the audience at the GLOBSEC 2012 Forum in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The past few weeks have seen several signs that V4 countries are taking their defence commitments seriously: the newly re-elected Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico gave an important speech at the GLOBSEC forum confirming Slovakia’s readiness to share the burden in NATO, and calling for the V4 to be at the forefront of smart defence efforts.
At Wednesday’s NATO Ministerial Meeting, V4 foreign and defence ministers released a joint declaration acknowledging common positions towards enlargement, Afghanistan, missile defence, and, importantly, smart defence.
The bottom line is: The Visegrad countries consult and coordinate their steps. They consider the Visegrad Group framework to be a meaningful concept, the potential of which has not yet been fully exploited. Moreover, there is a strong political will to make use of it in the difficult times of fiscal austerity.
The political will for V4 cooperation is supported by the efforts of their foreign and defence communities. Last year, the DAV4 expert group was established by the region’s leading think-tanks in order to give specific recommendations to V4 governments.
Having spent the last months discussing possibilities for collaboration with foreign and defence ministers and their staff, the group has now released a short teaser of the full report, to be published in time for the Chicago Summit in May.
The short document explains the motivations behind the increased interest in collaboration, as well as the general principles governments should follow in order to be successful, including project-based involvement of partners, pragmatism and smart industrial approach implying sharing of benefits on a long-term basis.
Though the past attempts suggest that the regional collaboration is not a risk-free enterprise, there are significant reasons to be optimistic at the moment. First, there is a strong political will to cooperate within the Visegrad region. Second, the expert communities support the initiative by both, advocating the concept and recommending how to implement it.
Finally, the internal motivations of these countries to collaborate are reasonable, be it a chance to play a major role in Europe on the side of Poland, or financial restraints downgrading defence capabilities on the side of its Visegrad partners.
The Visegrad countries understand the opportunities connected with regional defence collaboration as well as the consequences that the failure would bring in the years to come. It is their strategic interest to be smart and boost the process soon.
The author is CEPI Director