President Klaus attends Visegrad Group summit in Hungary

Photo: CTK

The presidents of the Visegrad Group - Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic meet regularly to discuss outstanding issues in bilateral relations, European affairs and security matters. This week their two-day summit took them to Keszthely Castle at Lake Balaton in Hungary.

Photo: CTK
Radio Prague's Jan Richter is there and has been following developments. Jan what is the focus of this two day summit?

Well, on the first day the presidents discussed general issues such as future cooperation within the Visegrad group and they talked at length about their experiences from the first three years of EU membership. As regards cooperation within the Visegrad group there are differing views on this. Some countries -in particular Hungary - would like to push for closer cooperation within the alliance while others - including President Klaus - are happy with the present state of affairs. In much the same way they have differences about the future of Europe. At the summit the Czech President introduced the motto of the Czech presidency of the European Union which is "Europe without barriers" and some countries, especially Hungary, would prefer to have a Europe without frontiers. Here is what President Klaus had to say about it:

Vzclav Klaus with his Hungarian counterpart Laszlo Solyom,  photo: CTK
"We had a very interesting debate today which was sparked by a mistake by an interpreter. I was presenting the Czech motto for the country's EU presidency in 2009 which is "Europe without barriers" and the interpreter translated it as Europe without borders. So I said wait a minute - that is not quite the same - we want a Europe without barriers but with borders. And in no time at all there was a lively debate which revealed our different concepts of a united Europe. Hungary for instance would like a Europe without borders. The Czech Republic and Slovakia would prefer to retain the borders but remove the barriers. That impromptu debate clearly defined where we stand in this respect."

Jan, the expansion of Schengen which is due to happen in 2008 was also a hot topic. I understand that the four presidents have rejected Austria's efforts to delay the expansion of the Schengen zone. Is that the case?

Not quite. Austria apparently announced that their police and military forces would continue policing the country's borders with the newcomers and the four presidents said they would ask their governments to reject this effort. The say there should be no difference between the old EU members and the new and that this also applies to the Schengen zone.

I take it they also stated they were fully prepared to join Schengen?

Yes, they all said they are fully prepared, although they realize that sometimes it can prove difficult. Polish President Lech Kaczynski said Poland's task would be particularly difficult because the country would neighbour on three countries which are not part of the Schengen zone. But he said that Poland was up to the challenge.

The two day Visegrad summit in Kezsthely is due to wind up on Friday evening.