Visegrad Group, Visegrad Four
Map of Europe indicating the four member countries of the Visegrád Group
|Establishment||15 February 1991|
206,030 sq mi
|•||Total||$1.767 trillion (2015)|
|•||Per capita||$27,474 USD (2015)|
The Visegrad Group, also called the Visegrad Four, or V4 is an alliance of four Central European states – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – for the purposes of furthering their European integration, as well as for advancing military, economic and energy cooperation with one another. The group used to be occasionally referred to as the Visegrád Triangle, due to the fact that it was originally an alliance of three states – the term has not been valid since 1993, but does continue to appear sometimes.
The Group traces its origins to the summit meeting of leaders from Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland held in the Hungarian castle town of Visegrád on 15 February 1991 (not to be confused with Vyšehrad, a castle in Prague, or with the town of Višegrad in Bosnia and Herzegovina). After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia became independent members of the group, thus increasing the total number of members to four. All four members of the Visegrád Group joined the European Union on 1 May 2004.
The Group's name in the languages of the four countries is Visegrádská čtyřka or Visegrádská skupina (Czech); Visegrádi Együttműködés or Visegrádi négyek (Hungarian); Grupa Wyszehradzka (Polish); and Vyšehradská skupina or Vyšehradská štvorka (Slovak).
The name of the Group is derived, and the place of meeting selected, from a meeting of the Bohemian (Czech), Polish, and Hungarian rulers in Visegrád in 1335. Charles I of Hungary, Casimir III of Poland, and John of Bohemia agreed to create new commercial routes to bypass the staple port Vienna and obtain easier access to other European markets. The recognition of Czech sovereignty over the Duchy of Silesia was also confirmed. A second meeting took place in 1339, where it was decided that after the death of Casimir III of Poland, the son of Charles I of Hungary, Louis I of Hungary, would become King of Poland provided that Casimir did not have a son.
During the Cold War, after the events of World War II, the countries in the Visegrad Group were satellite states under the Soviet Union's Marxist-Leninist influences as Poland (Polish People's Republic), Hungary (Hungarian People's Republic) and Czechoslovakia (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic) were members of the Warsaw Pact and Comecon. The states attempted to overthrow the Soviet-inspired regimes such as the events in 1956 in Budapest, 1968 in Prague and 1981 in Gdańsk. After the regimes were dismantled in 1989, the Visegrád Group came to an establishment in 1991 to allow the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, Comecon and ultimately, the Soviet Union itself. Czechoslovakia was peacefully dissolved in 1993 and the four states subsequently joined the European Union in 2004.
All four nations in the Visegrád Group are high income countries with a very high Human Development Index. V4 countries have enjoyed more or less steady economic growth for over a century. In 2009, Slovakia adopted the euro as its official currency.
Based on Gross Domestic Product per capita (PPP) figures for the year 2015, the most developed country in the grouping is the Czech Republic (USD 32,622 per capita), followed by Slovakia (USD 29,209 per capita), Poland (USD 27,654 per capita) and Hungary (USD 26,941 per capita). The average GDP (PPP) in 2013 for the entire group was USD 25,797.
Within the EU, the V4 countries are pro-nuclear power, and are seeking to expand or found (in the case of Poland) a nuclear power industry. They have sought to counter what they see as an anti-nuclear power bias within the EU, believing their countries would benefit from nuclear power's zero emissions and high reliability.
Current member states
Poland has the region's largest economy (GDP PPP total of USD 1,051 billion, ranked 23rd in the world). According to the United Nations and the World Bank, it is a high-income country with a high quality of life and a very high standard of living. The Polish economy is the sixth largest in the EU and one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, with a yearly growth rate of over 3.0% before the late-2000s recession. It is the only member country of the European Union to have avoided a decline in GDP, meaning that in 2009 Poland has created the most GDP growth in the EU. As of December 2009 the Polish economy had not entered recession nor contracted. According to the Central Statistical Office of Poland, in 2011 the Polish economic growth rate was 4.3%, which was the best result in the EU. The largest component of its economy is the service sector (67.3%), followed by the industry sector (28.1%) and the agriculture sector (4.6%). Following the increase of private investment and funding assistance from the EU, infrastructure in Poland has rapidly developed.
The main industries are mining, machinery (cars, buses, ships), metallurgy, chemical, electrical, textile, and food processing. The high technology and IT sectors are also growing with the help of investors like Google, Toshiba, Dell, GE, LG, and Sharp. The result is that today Poland is a producer of many electronic devices and components. Minerals extracted include black and brown coal, copper, lead, zinc, salt, sulfur, magnesite, kaolin, and small amounts of oil and natural gas.
Poland has been called the bread basket of Europe due to its highly developed agriculture sector. Arable lands make up nearly half of the country, meadows and pastures only 13% and forests 30%. Wheat, rye, barley, flax, oats, potatoes, sugar beets, canola, hops, fruit, and vegetables are all grown for both the home and export markets. Meanwhile, Poland's production of rye, flax, potatoes, and sugar beet is the second largest in Europe after Russia. Pigs, cattle, sheep, horses, and poultry are all commonly bred livestock. The country also has a substantial fishing industry located on the Baltic coast and near the lakes of the Masuria region.
The Czech Republic's economy is the group's second largest (GDP PPP of USD $343.931 billion total, ranked 50th in the world). Before the Second World War, the Czech Republic was one of the most advanced countries in the world. However, the transition from the socialist to the capitalist economic model in the early 1990s had a significant impact on the country's economy. Since the Velvet Revolution, the Czech Republic has successfully transformed itself into a free market economy. Today, the Czech Republic is a highly industrialized country and is, according to the World Bank, one of the world's thirty most developed countries.
The principal industries in the Czech Republic are chemicals, machinery, food processing, metallurgy and smelting. Other major industry sectors are energy, construction and consumer. Less important are the arms industry and glass, but these have a long tradition in Bohemia. Industry accounts for 35% of the Czech economy. The Czech Republic produces per capita the most cars. Main producers are Škoda auto, Peugeot-Citroen, Toyota and Hyundai. Other major companies are ČEZ (biggest company in central and eastern Europe), Škoda works (manufacturer of rail vehicles), Panasonic (electronics), Tatra (Heavy truck manufacturer), Arcelor Mittal (Metallurgy), PPF (largest Central European investment group) Pilsner Urquell (brewing) Aero (aerospace), and many others.
The Czech Republic hosts the headquarters of the Galileo project.
The key minerals mined are black and brown coal, clay, graphite, limestone, and other building materials. Uranium deposits are found near the village of Lower. In South Moravia, oil and natural gas are extracted, but larger amounts are imported from Russia. Since one third of the country is covered with forest, wood is also an important export.
Cereals (wheat, barley, maize), potatoes, sugar beets, poppy seeds, other flax crops, and canola are grown. Hops, fruit growing, and viticulture are also important. The basis of livestock is cattle, pigs, and poultry, as well as beekeeping or freshwater fish (especially carp).
Hungary has the group's third largest economy (total GDP of USD $265.037 billion, 57th in the world). Hungary was one of the more developed economies of the Eastern bloc. With about $18 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) since 1989, Hungary has attracted over one-third of all FDI in central and eastern Europe, including the former Soviet Union. Of this, about $6 billion came from American companies. Now it is an industrial agricultural state. The main industries are engineering, mechanical engineering (cars, buses), chemical, electrical, textile, and food industries.
The service's sector accounted for 64% of GDP in 2007 and its role in the Hungarian economy is steadily growing. Located in the heart of Central Europe, Hungary’s strategic location plays a significant role in the rise of the service sector as the country’s central position makes it suitable and rewarding to invest.
The main sectors of Hungarian industry are heavy industry (mining, metallurgy, machine and steel production), energy production, mechanical engineering, chemicals, food industry, and automobile production. The industry is leaning mainly on processing industry and (including construction) accounted for 29.32% of GDP in 2008. The leading industry is machinery, followed by chemical industry (plastic production, pharmaceuticals), while mining, metallurgy and textile industry seemed to be losing importance in the past two decades. In spite of the significant drop in the last decade, food industry is still giving up to 14% of total industrial production and amounts to 7-8% of the country's exports.
Agriculture accounted for 4.3% of GDP in 2008 and along with the food industry occupied roughly 7.7% of the labor force. These two figures represent only the primary agricultural production: along with related businesses, agriculture makes up about 13% of the GDP. Hungarian agriculture is virtually self-sufficient and due to traditional reasons export-oriented. The most important crops are wheat, corn, sunflower, potato, sugar beet, canola, and a wide variety of fruits (notably apple, peach, pear, grape, watermelon, plum, etc.). Hungary has several wine regions producing among others the worldwide famous white dessert wine Tokaji and the red Bull’s Blood.
Tourism employs nearly 150 thousand people and the total income from tourism was 4 billion euros in 2008. One of Hungary’s top tourist destinations is Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe, with a number of 1,2 million visitors in 2008. The most visited region is Budapest, the Hungarian capital attracted 3.61 million visitors in 2008. Hungary was the world’s 24th most visited country in 2011.
The smallest but the second most powerful V4 economy is that of Slovakia (GDP of USD $158.428 billion total, 70th in the world). Along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia was the most developed country of the Eastern Bloc. The first years after the revolution in 1989 saw stagnation. At the end of the 1990s, the economy grew and attracted much investment. Today, Slovakia is an advanced industrial nation. The main problems of the Slovak economy are unemployment, inequality between regions and corruption.
The automotive industry is vital for the Slovak economy. Major car companies, namely Volkswagen, PSA Peugeot-Citroen, KIA, and since 2018 Jaguar-Land Rover, have assembly lines in the country. Another important industry is electronics. Near the city of Nitra is Sony's factory. The Korean company Samsung also has a factory in Slovakia. The metals, mining and quarrying and food-processing industries are important.
Slovakia has a developed agriculture. Mostly grown is corn, but also grapes, especially in the southwest of the country. In the Tatra Mountains and other high land there is breeding of domestic animals - sheep and cattle. Peppers and potatoes are grown.
Possible future enlargement
So far enlargement has not been a policy of the Visegrád Group member states.
Upon meeting President Miloš Zeman of the Czech Republic, Norbert Hofer, one of the leading candidates in the 2016 presidential elections in Austria claimed that Austria would seek Visegrád Group membership should he be elected. Both Zeman and other leaders of the current member states have yet to comment on the possibility of Austria joining the group. If that were to happen, Austria would become the alliance's second biggest economy despite being smaller in terms of population than any of the other V4 countries save for Slovakia. Slovakia is also the only V4 member state that uses the euro as the currency, which is also the only legal tender in Austria.
The population is 64,301,710 inhabitants, which would rank 22nd largest in the world and 4th in Europe (very similar in size to France, Italy or the UK) if V4 were a single country. Most people live in Poland (38 million), followed by the Czech Republic (nearly 11 million), Hungary (nearly 10 million) and Slovakia (5.5 million).
The country holding the Group's presidency changes each year, in July:
International Visegrád Fund
The only solid organization of the Visegrád co-operation is the International Visegrád Fund (IVF), established in 1999, with its seat in Bratislava. According to a decision of the prime ministers, the Fund has an annual budget of EUR 8 million as of 2014. With more than 11 annual deadlines and irregular calls for proposals the fund awards grants, scholarships and research fellowships, and artist residencies. Main recipients of its funding are citizens and non-governmental organizations from the V4 region, as well as countries of the Western Balkans, the Eastern Partnerships, and other countries.
On 12 May 2011, Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich said that Poland will lead a new EU Battlegroup of the Visegrád Group. The decision was made at the V4 defence ministers' meeting in Levoča, Slovakia, and the battlegroup would become operational and be placed on standby in the first half of 2016. The ministers also agreed that the V4 militaries should hold regular exercises under the auspices of the NATO Response Force, with the first such exercise to be held in Poland in 2013. The battlegroup would include members of V4 and Ukraine.
On 14 March 2014, signed a pact on a joint military body within the European Union, in response to the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine. The deal involves joint military exercises, coordinated defence procurement and joint defence development of the four central European countries.
Visegrád Scholarship Program
The continually expanding Visegrád Scholarship Program awards individual mobility stipends from the International Visegrád Fund for students of Master's or post-Master's levels. Students from the following countries and territories are eligible for the scholarships: the Visegrád Group countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), also Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine.
Expert Working Group on Energy
In 2002 Hungary initiated establishment of an Expert Working Group on Energy. This expert group meets once or twice a year in V4 capitals on a rotation basis, and the head of the host country delegation always chairs the meeting.
On 27 April 2006 the Working Group met in Prague with the aim of discussing recommendations for V4 energy ministers concerning topics negotiated at ministerial level meetings. The WG elaborated recommendations concerning four groups of problems:
- Recommendations of general nature in the sphere of energy policy, including energy research and development.
- Recommendation to consider development of emergency natural gas storage.
- Recommendation to consider construction of new gas and oil pipelines and of new naval LNG terminals.
- Recommendations in the field of interconnecting power transmission grids.
Visegrad Patent Institute
Created by an agreement signed in Bratislava on February 26, 2015, the Institute aims at operating as an International Searching Authority (ISA) and International Preliminary Examining Authorities (IPEA) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) as from July 1, 2016.
- Inner Six
- Central European Initiative
- Craiova Group
- The Alps-Adriatic Working Group
- Warsaw Pact
- Eurasian Economic Union
- Soviet Union
- EU Med Group
- "The Bratislava Declaration of the Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Poland and the Slovak Republic on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Visegrad Group". Official web portal of the Visegrád Group. Archived from the original on 24 August 2014. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
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- Aggregate And Per Capita GDP in Europe, 1870-2000: Continental, Regional and National Data With Changing Boundaries, Stephen Broadberry University of Warwick (27 October 2011), Retrieved on 07 September 2013
- European Union. "The Visegrád Group – Growth Engine of Europe", international conference Speech by Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy. Budapest: 24 June 2014
- "V4". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
- "Visegrad group backs nuclear energy". China.org.cn. 2013-10-14. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
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- "SPI PROGRESS INDEX 2015". Retrieved 16 December 2015.
- Numbeo Quality of Life Index 2015 Mid Year
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- "Elemzői reakciók az ipari termelési adatra (Analysts' Reaction on Industrial Production Data)" (in Hungarian). 7 April 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
- "Food Industry". Retrieved 18 January 2010.
- "Value and distribution of gross value added by industries". Hungarian Central Statistical Office. 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
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- "Táblamelléklet (Tables)" (PDF). Hungarian Central Statistical Office. Retrieved 18 January 2010.
- "UNWTO World Tourism Barometer" (PDF). World Tourism Organisation. January 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
- International Monetary Fund. April 2015.
- Austria's Hofer wants broader Visegrad group
- "Czech Republic Population 2016". World Population Review. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
- (Slovak) https://slovak.statistics.sk/wps/wcm/connect/1f62189f-cc70-454d-9eab-17bdf5e1dc4a/Tab_10_Obyvatelstvo_SR_podla_narodnosti_scitanie_2011_2001_1991.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
- Visegrad grounds of Ukraine. Mirror Weekly. May 13, 2011
- "Today's Stock Market News and Analysis". Nasdaq.com. Retrieved 2016-05-01.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Visegrád Group.|
- Official web portal of the Visegrád Group
- Official travel site of the Visegrád Group
- International Visegrád Fund official homepage
- Visegrad Insight - Independent analysis and opinion journal edited by editors from V4 countries
- Visegrad Revue - Webzine on the Visegrád Region and Central Europe
- Think Visegrád - V4 Think-Tank Platform
- Two Decades of Visegrád Cooperation: selected V4 Bibliography. Bratislava: International Visegrád Fund, 2011
- Cooperation of the Visegrád Four Member Countries (V4) in energy
- Visegrád Summer School in Villa Decius, Krakow, Poland