The 8th annual meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Visegrad Group and Nordic-Baltic Eight was held on June 3rd 2020 in the videoconference format, upon the joint invitation of the Czech Republic and Estonia as coordinators of respective groups.
The agenda of the V4 and NB8 Foreign Ministers’ meeting focused on current European and security as well as foreign policy issues.
The V4 and NB8 Foreign Ministers emphasised the importance of cooperation between governments in different levels and formats, which has been essential during the ongoing global COVID-19 crisis and plays the key role also when discussing exit strategies and recovery. Ministers welcomed improvement of the epidemiological situation and expressed hope for gradual return to normality. Ministers expressed their wish and readiness for coordination when lifting restrictions and reopening borders. Participating states confirmed that the measures adopted at national level are strictly temporary and not aimed at distorting fundamental democratic principles and rule of law the modern European societies are built on.
Ongoing COVID 19 pandemic has also revealed the need to improve the European resilience. Ministers discussed ways to foster and diversify supply chains in order to decrease dependence on deliveries of some equipment vital to ensuring public healthcare. It was also agreed to continue joint efforts to strengthen cooperation in the areas related to cyber security and strategic communication.
Ministers also agreed that the COVID-19 crisis could also provide opportunities for Europe to carry out necessary structural reforms and boost economic recovery and competitiveness based on large investments, fighting climate change, introducing new digital and greener technologies.
The meeting took place only few weeks after Europe had marked the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and the establishment of the United Nations. Ministers paid tribute to the victims of the WW II and to all soldiers who fought to defeat the Nazi regime and put an end to the Holocaust, and recognised that while May 1945 brought the end of the Second World War in Europe, it did not bring freedom to all of Europe as the central and eastern part of the continent remained under the rule of communist regimes for almost 50 years.
Ministers stressed that lasting international security, stability and peace requires genuine and continuous adherence to international law and norms, including the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states. Ministers also underlined the importance of continuing to work together to strengthen Europe strong and free, where human rights, democracy and the rule of law prevail.
In this context, Ministers reconfirmed their support to Eastern Partnership countries, including for independence and territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine, and reiterated the necessity of carrying out deep and comprehensive reforms with a view of enhancing stability and resilience of EaP countries.
The countries of Visegrad Group and Nordic Baltic Eight also reaffirmed their unequivocal support for clear European perspective of the Western Balkan countries. Credible EU enlargement process based on fundamental values and fair conditionality has a positive transformative power in the Western Balkans and further enhances regional security, economic prosperity and stability in whole Europe.
The Ministers emphasised the dire economic and social situation, further worsened by COVID-19, in several countries in the world. Ministers encouraged EU to play active role in the process of alleviation of negative impacts, with special attention on African region.
The next V4 and NB8 Foreign Ministers’ meeting will take place in 2021, under the guidance of Poland and Finland, as the coordinators of V4 and NB8 respectively.