Bloc shares unified position on key issues of migration and terrorism
Prior to a meeting of the European Council, the Visegrad Group adopted a joint declaration regarding topics that will be debated with the leaders of other EU Member States in Brussels today and tomorrow, according to a Czech government press release.
The V4 countries state that they share the same position on questions concerning migration, fight against terrorism, the Energy Union, and the United Kingdom’s reform agenda.
The V4 countries include the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. The Czech Republic is currently holding the rotating leadership of the bloc.
In a joint declaration, the Visegrad Group underscored the need for the reliable protection of the EU’s external borders and for the full operability of planned hotspots so as to ensure that the entry of all persons to the EU is fully under control.
Moreover, the V4 countries called on all their European partners to support and preserve the Schengen Area as one of the basic building blocks of the European integration process. At the same time, V4 members confirmed their resolve to continue cooperation with Western Balkans countries and other third countries.
“To strengthen the fight against terrorism, the Visegrad Group is prepared to improve the exchange of information and intelligence. Further, V4 officials voiced strong support for the rapid adoption and implementation of the Passenger Name Record directive,” the government press release stated.
In their joint declaration, V4 countries also welcomed the discussion among European leaders about the Energy Union, which is considered a key priority. Visegrad Group countries are in favor of completing the European Union’s internal energy market and building a robust energy infrastructure as a way of strengthening energy security. In this regard, the Visegrad Group calls on the European Commission to ensure the full conformity of any new infrastructure in the European Union’s territory with EU’s current laws.
The closing stage of the coordination meeting was attended by Prime Minister David Cameron who presented the British EU reform proposals to his V4 counterparts. The Visegrad Group says it is prepared to support the United Kingdom’s proposals aimed at strengthening competitiveness and increasing the role of national parliaments.
However, V4 countries state they consider free movement one of the fundamental values of the European Union and will support no proposal that would be discriminatory or restrictive with regard to this freedom.
JOINT STATEMENT OF THE VISEGRÁD GROUP COUNTRIES
BRUSSELS, 17 DECEMBER 2015
We, the Prime Ministers of the Visegrád Group countries, convening in Brussels on 17 December 2015 in the margins of the European Council, adopt hereby the following Joint Statement:
The Visegrád Group countries welcome the focus of the December European Council on keychallenges of the day. Political guidance for further steps of the European Union is needed, especially as regards migration, fight against terrorism, the question of the UK reform agenda, as well as the Energy Union.
Migration remains in the centre of attention. The Visegrád Group countries welcome the focus of the European Council Conclusions on addressing the root causes of the current migratory pressure with particular emphasis on an effective protection of the external border. A common resolute and united action is needed to improve, support and preserve Schengen as one of the cornerstones of the European integration project. We call on all true friends of Schengen to join this effort towards a conclusive debate on the key proposals tabled by the European Commission in this respect.
The prime objective for the European Union and MemberStates is to regain full control at the external borders and to ensure systematic and coordinated security checks with all relevant databases which should include also individuals enjoying the right of free movement. This goes hand in hand with making hotspots a functional system. Unfortunately, this is still not the case and the Visegrád Group countries therefore support the strong impetus provided by the European Council Conclusions in this regard.
We join the voices expecting that all the envisaged hotspots in the frontline Member States be established and become fully operational without further delay. Only then can proper registration and fingerprinting of all arriving migrants be ensured. To make the system functional in terms of responding to the current challenge, hotspots should also have detention capacity. In this light, we reiterate that any other measure could only be discussed once the European Union regains control over external border, stems the inflow of irregular migrants and assesses thoroughly the measures taken so far.
The Visegrád Group countries have already made significant efforts to contribute to an effective protection of the external borders. They are committed to uphold their contribution and further continue their cooperation along the Western Balkans route and with other relevant third countries.
The Visegrád Group countries support all the measures proposed in the December European Council Conclusions to fight terrorism. We are committed to improve information and intelligence sharing; we strongly support a swift adoption and implementation of the Passenger Name Record Directive.
Progress is needed also on measures aimed at combating financing terrorism and organised crime.
We agree that the European Union needs a transparent framework for firearms control and expect that the respective Commission proposals will be thoroughly discussed at the expert level.
The Visegrád Group countries appreciate that discussion on the UK reform agenda will take place at the December European Council. We believe we can build on this debate and reach a comprehensive agreement by February 2016. We can support those elements of UK reform proposals with a potential to modernise the European Union, especially as concerns increasing competitiveness and a stronger role of national Parliaments. However, as the Visegrád Group countries consider the freedom of movement one of the fundamental values of the European Union, proposals regarding this area remain the most sensitive issue for us. In this respect, we will not support any solutions which would be discriminatory or limit free movement.
Implementation of the Energy Union represents a key priority for the Visegrád Group countries. The geopolitics of today shows that energy security and related topics gain importance at the top of the European Union agenda. Therefore, we welcome that the European Council Conclusions pave way for a full and thorough implementation of the Energy Union, especially in the light of the first report of the state of the Energy Union presented recently by the European Commission. The Visegrád Group countries underline that the Energy Union implementation requires swift action. We are looking forward to discuss and put in place strengthened security of supply measures scheduled for 2016.
We reiterate that coherence of the European Union energy policy with the European Union external and neighbourhood policies must be ensured. We support the completion of the European Union internal energy market and build-up of robust energy infrastructure as means of strengthening energy security. In this respect, we call on the European Commission to ensure full compliance of any new infrastructure with the existing EU legislation, including the Third energy package, and with the objectives and principles of the Energy Union, such as reduction of energy dependency and diversification of sources, suppliers and routes.