V4 Group, Three Seas Initiative reaffirm Central European identity: FM

The Visegrad Group (V4) and the Three Seas Initiative help reaffirm the joint identity of Central Europe, Foreign Affairs Minister Zbigniew Rau told the Hungarian Magyar Hirlap daily in a Wednesday interview on Polish foreign policy priorities.

Commenting on Poland's current presidency of the V4 group (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia), Mr Rau said V4 initiatives will be at the forefront of Polish foreign policy throughout the presidency period.

“The Three Seas Initiative stems from the common experiences and common identities of the twelve countries that make it up, and we are working to develop a common digital, transport and energy infrastructure on the north-south axis,” Mr Rau said.

‘Back on track’

The motto of the current Polish presidency in the V4 that started on July 1, 2020, is "Back on track" which expresses the desire to rebuild after the pandemic. Poland’s V4 presidency entails four major objectives, namely “strong V4 in a strong Europe”, “return to normality”, “people-to-people contacts” and “digital V4 - e-V4”.

The “strong V4 in a strong Europe” objective boils down to consultation and coordination of V4 at EU political level, strengthening of V4 countries influence on the EU decision-making process, jointly tackling serious problems such as droughts and dwindling water resources (“V4 water”), deepening V4 cooperation in sectoral policies and cooperation in the V4+ format.

The “return to normality” refers to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, V4 cooperation to return to normality after the pandemic (“V4 recovery”) as soon as possible and cooperation in health and science.

Cooperation in the area of broadly defined connections and synergies (“V4 connectivity”), developing contacts between societies in V4 countries (V4 people), e.g. in the field of culture, youth, education, justice, sport, joint and mutual promotion within V4, as well as restoring and strengthening cooperation and cross-border contacts affected by the pandemic are carried out as part of the “people-to-people contacts” pillar.

Last but not least, the “digital V4 - e-V4” objective is to be fulfilled by V4 cooperation in the area of the digital agenda, including the digital transition, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, e-commerce, cybersecurity; building sustainable V4 relations allowing to advocate and safeguard the common interests of the region within the EU digital transition; strengthening and enhancing V4 cooperation in the area of innovation and application of new technologies; enhancing V4 cooperation in the area of Government Technology (GovTech), digitization and innovation support through cross-border initiatives and promoting collaboration between regional private and public actors.

Referring to the Three Seas Initiative, the minister said Poland's focus will be on the construction of a joint digital, transport and energy infrastructure systems to connect the initiative’s members.

Poland convinced the situation in Belarus should be resolved peacefully

Mr Rau said a major element in Poland's foreign policy was broad cooperation with the US and the EU. He also highlighted Poland's involvement in efforts to resolve the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and in weakening of the consequences of Russian aggression.

Asked about the situation in Belarus, Mr Rau said Poland was convinced it should be resolved through peaceful means. Commenting on the ongoing protests in the country following a rigged August presidential election, he said the processes underway in Belarus were irreversible and advocated for international aid to the Belarusian people.

He also reiterated Poland's earlier appeals for EU sanctions against members of the Belarusian authorities responsible for police brutality on demonstrators.

Asked about the migration crisis, Mr Rau said Poland was against mandatory relocations of refugees to the EU countries.