Hungary takes over Visegrad Four presidency

Hungary has taken over the presidency of the 'Visegrad Four' - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. The group works on regional cooperation and has been trying to achieve a common stance on a number of issues within the European Union.

Radio Budapest spoke to the head of the department for EU bilateral relations in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, Jozsef Toth, about the role of the Visegrad Group and the objectives of the Hungarian presidency:

"Despite some sceptical opinions and some mixed experiences, all four prime ministers reiterated their commitment to maintain this Visegrad forum because they believe that this is still a useful tool to try to harmonise our efforts and increase our lobby power within the EU by joint action of the four countries. We, in Central Europe, still have many areas where we can identify common interests and we are practically sitting in the same boat in many important issues and we hope that by joining our efforts in the European Union we can increase our voices by speaking together and jointly on issues."

Hungary has taken over the presidency of the Visegrad Four. What are its priorities?

"We, first of all, would like to bring the benefits of this cooperation closer to our citizens. This means that they should know more about the opportunities, which this framework provides. Secondly, after our accession to the EU, we have to define the areas for cooperation inside the European framework. Thirdly, we would like to focus on modernisation projects for the central European region, especially in the area of infrastructural development, research and development, and also economic cooperation as a whole.

"Besides this, we would pay special attention towards what is called the neighbourhood policy of the EU. We would like to increase our efforts in the east and southeast. Ukraine needs more support now and the same goes for the western Balkans where we see again an important role for Central European countries to help the consolidation and democratisation projects there."