Purpose for the conference
Between the 7th and the 10th of February 2008, a multilateral conference was organized by the Corvinus Society for Foreign Affairs and Culture with the assistance of the National Fund for Students in Hungary and the Balassi Institute. The aim of the conference was to bring together young researchers from the four V4 countries (from the partner universities) and Ukraine in order to identify the issues that can be relevant in the context of the chosen strategic priority. A selected list of proposed topics was created as the outcome of the conference, touching upon many significant areas from politics and economy to culture. This conference also served as a preparatory event for the application for the IVF Strategic Grant by clarifying details of the concept and implementation of the project.
The participating young experts worked in three working panels (a political, an economic and a cultural) and were asked to come up with two or three interesting topics each. This way, as a result of the conference, nine topics of utmost importance have been selected for future projects. The two basic criteria by which these topics have been selected are the importance of the issue for the V4 countries and their neighbouring regions, and the existence of a specific V4 know-how in the proposed area. These topics were later significantly reduced in number and narrowed down for the purposes of the application to the International Visegrad Fund.
Outcome of the conference
As a result of the conference, each panel managed to propose three topics that are considered to be worth conducting research on. You will find the proposed topics with a short abstract and a questionnaire about their relevance, management and dissemination in the PDF version. The topics are listed by panel.
These proposals can be seen as a collection of issues that have a significant impact on the future of our region. Nevertheless, they don't include the ‘high policy' topics that are the subject of most policy debates (like energy security, our role in CFSP, etc.). The special relevance of these issues stems from their focus on actors who are close to the grassroot level: NGOs, SMEs, individual artists, etc. Their experience is especially important when we consider the history of our region and the characteristics of the V4 cooperation.
Firstly, most of the countries who joined the EU in 2004, including the Visegrad countries, have been going through a continuous transition from a political, economic and cultural environment dominated by the state to one where the above mentioned actors are supposed to be empowered, strengthened, and they also have to take up more responsibilities.
Although the EU, including our countries, makes quite an effort in order to help the prospective member states in their accession process, this is taking place mostly on the state level. Less attention is being paid to those who should be the real drivers of meaningful democracy, political transparency, moral foreign policy, free market economy, a strong middle-class or a lively and diverse cultural field. Our future projects should focus on such ‘non-state-level' actors
Secondly, the V4 and the IVF concentrates its activities on exactly such bottom-to-top initiatives, on civil-civil cooperation between the V4 countries and on ‘low politics' or ‘soft policy' issues. While it can be considered to be a deficiency of the V4, an organization that can not move on to become a real institution which could effectively handle and discuss ‘real' issues, such an assessment would be wrong. We have all joined the EU, which is the exact forum for such debates and discussions. The added value of the Visegrad Cooperation lays elsewhere. The V4 as an agent of fostering mutual understanding and cross-border cooperation between our societies has accumulated an unmatched experience that would help those countries who are yet in an earlier stage of this process. Its untarnished reputation as a brandmark of success can help this transfer.
The proposed topics are highly diverse and can not be considered as all being part of a single research project. We regard these proposals as a pool of questions that can be used in further cooperation between the participating young scholars and institutions. We have identified nine crucial areas where the V4 has a unique experience, has been successful during the EU integration and where we can provide a valuable assistance for countries who wish to join the EU. Our current project for the IVF Strategic Grant will necessarily be much more narrow and limited, focusing on one issue in one coherent framework. The listed questions can be included in further projects financed by other sources; they can be elaborated and discussed in detail during our upcoming meetings. The analysis of the questions below would provide not only a significant contribution to the integration efforts of prospective EU member states in our regional neighbourhood, but would also help to clarify what makes the V4 special in the sense of common identity, common values, common experience and common interests.
head of research
Corvinus Society for Foreign Affairs and Culture