Central European leaders mark Visegrad Group’s 30 years

World

Polish Minister of National Defence Mariusz Blaszczak, fourth right, walks with his his Hungarian counterpart Tibor Benko, third right, before their meeting in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says the role of Central European nations is to help protect the European Union against “outside attacks” but also against “internal tendencies to build an empire” while guarding their own independence.

Orban made the comments Wednesday in Polish and Hungarian media as four nations — Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and The Czech Republic — celebrated 30 years of their Visegrad Group, an informal body of political and economic cooperation in the fast-developing region.

The ceremonious gathering at Wawel Castle in Krakow, hosted by Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and attended by Orban, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Slovakia’s Prime Minister Igor Matovic, was joined by European Council President Charles Michel.

The V4 nations “understand their share of responsibility for the future of Europe” based on Christian values, Orban wrote in a letter for Poland’s Interia.pl news platform and for the Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet.

He said the group’s role was to “defend (Europe) against outside attacks and defend it against internal tendencies to build an empire, to maintain the independence of our homelands and nations.”

Hungary and Poland are the EU’s recalcitrant members, often criticized for what is seen as political interference in areas like the judiciary and the media freedom.

During their gathering, the leaders will discuss and sign a declaration of cooperation in the cyber sector.

The V4 was founded in February 1991 from a declaration of cooperation that then-Presidents Lech Walesa of Poland, Vaclav Havel of then-Czechoslovakia and Jozsef Antall of Hungary signed in Visegrad, Hungary. Its members joined the EU in 2004.

Poland currently holds the group’s 12-month rotating presidency, which it will hand over to Hungary on July 1.

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