New Hungarian cultural centre example of Visegrad cooperation

Cooperation between Central Europe's Visegrad Group - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia - mainly consists of high-level meetings between premiers and foreign ministers of the four countries. But there's also cooperation on a more grass roots level, aimed at bringing Central Europe's neighbours closer together. One example of such low-level cooperation is the opening this week of a Hungarian cultural centre in the heart of the North Moravian city of Ostrava. With more details, here's Radio Prague's Ostrava correspondent Zuzana Smidova.

The chief task of the new Hungarian Cultural Centre is to help prepare Hungary and the Czech Republic for joint entry to the European Union, inform local people about Hungarian culture and help create closer commercial ties between the two countries. It will also promote holiday resorts and spas, and work to overcome the language barrier between Czechs and Hungarians.

There are some 20,000 Hungarians living in the Czech Republic, a tiny number compared to Slovakia, which spent centuries under Hungarian rule. Slovakia's Hungarian community therefore have historical and cultural roots in Slovakia, unlike Hungarians living in the Czech Republic, who mostly came for better work opportunities.

The Association of Hungarians already runs similar cultural centres in Prague, Brno and Litomerice. They plan to open more such centres across the country, welcoming any form of cooperation between the Czech Republic and Hungary.

At a higher level the four countries of the Visegrad Group: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, are joining forces to pressure the EU into giving them a concrete date for expansion. The 'every man for himself' strategy has failed to produce a breakthrough, and the Visegrad Four now seem to be trying a new tack of 'united we stand, divided we fall'. While this new strategy hasn't made much of an impression yet with EU officials in Brussels, cooperation between the four states, such as the opening of the cultural centre in Ostrava, could bring more success.

Author: Zuzana Šmídová
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