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Visegrad Four Turns 20.

The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have gathered in Bratislava Tuesday to mark the 20th birthday of the Visegrad Four (V4), the grouping of the four Central European countries.

Hungary PM Viktor Orban, CzechA PM Petr Necas, SlovakiaA PM Iveta Radicova, and Polish PM Donald Tusk got together for a forum in the capital of Slovakia, which is the current chair of the V4. Two of the members of the Visegrad Four a Hungary and Poland a are holding the rotating EU Presidency in 2011, after the Czech Republic already did so in 2009.

Later on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Austrian Chancellor Werner Feimann, and Ukrainian PM Mikola Azarov joined the event, whose topics focused on EU energy security, economy, and public debt crises for some EU states.

The Visegrad Group, which consists of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, was formed as an alliance in 1991 by the Central European countries following the collapse of communism in the region.

The Visegrad Declaration, ceremonially signed by then Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel, Polish President Lech Walesa and Hungarian Prime Minister Jozsef Antall on February 15, 1991, laid the foundations for the Visegrad Group, now known as the V4, The Prague Daily Monitor reminds.

All the three signatories were former fighters against communism that collapsed in Central and Eastern Europe shortly before.

As a result of their 40-year-long experience with communist regimes, and their new effort to restore democracy and join European organisations, the three countries faced similar challenges then.

In the Visegrad Declaration, Prague, Budapest and Warsaw agreed to harmonize their efforts to enter European institutions, mutually consult defence issues and develop economic cooperation.

After the split of Czechoslovakia in January 1993, both successor states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, continued cooperating within the Visegrad Group.

A practical result of V4 cooperation was the establishment of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in 1992. The CEFTA, aimed to boost economic contacts afflicted by the disintegration of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA), was gradually joined by other countries of the former Eastern Bloc.

In May 2004, the V4 countries joined the EU, by which the V4's original goal was met. In spite of this, the V4 did not cease to exist. A declaration of the four prime ministers, signed later in 2004, set new joint goals such as the defence of regional interests in the EU and the promotion of cooperation in broader Central Europe.
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Publication:Sofia News Agency
Geographic Code:4EXCZ
Date:Feb 15, 2011
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