Polish Foreign Minister stresses need for Visegrad Group to stay active after EU membership

Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz und Cyril Svoboda (Foto: CTK)

Last week saw much anger and disappointment among the eastern European candidate countries for EU membership after French President Jacques Chirac harshly criticised their support of the United States' tough stance on Iraq. With EU expansion nearing amid deep divisions among NATO and EU members over the Iraqi crisis, Czech and Polish politicians met at the end of last week for talks. Here's Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz:

Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Cyril Svoboda, photo: CTK
"For sure, that is not what we expected after the Prague Summit and the Copenhagen Summit but this is the reality and we have to face it. We have to react to that. It is of course true that there are differences concerning various problems, including Iraq but I believe it is wiser to underline similarities and common elements of our thinking and position than underling the differences."

Mr Cimoszewicz was in Prague to deliver a lecture organised by the Association for International Affairs. He stressed that the EU's policy in Central and Eastern Europe was extremely important, and should remain a priority even after the expansion process. "Co-operation in the area of justice and home affairs should be expanded to tackle common problems," he said, "particularly organised crime, including drug production, smuggling and dealing, money laundering, human trafficking and sex slavery, illegal immigration as well as terrorism." He said this was why it was important that the Visegrad Group - the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia - continued to stay active and hold meetings even after EU membership.

"We believe that also in the future, in terms of EU membership, there is much sense, not only to continue but also to cover some new areas and some new problems between the four of us. There is an excellent example of that kind of co-operation and here I mean the Benelux countries. Having a positive, satisfactory experience of our Visegrad co-operation, we'll also remember the quite obvious fact that altogether, we'll represent the same voting power in the European Council as the major member states of the present fifteen and that should neither be ignored nor neglected. So, understanding that as newcomers, as countries representing a lower level of economic development, we share common problems I strongly believe that we have to continue with our co-operation."