After World War II, the Soviet Union forced countries within its sphere of influence into military and economic blocs the Warsaw Pact and the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance, CMEA, also known as the Comecom. In the early 1990s, freed from Soviet domination, Hungary and its neighbors were determined to join Western democracies by gaining access to the European Union, EU, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. But accession to these Western organizations had exacting preconditions. Potential members had to have democratic political systems and a market type economy.
In the early 1990s, having been freed from Soviet domination, small East Central European countries, such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania strove to establish democracy and a free market economy, and made a determined effort to join Western democracies by gaining admission to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. But accession to these Western organizations had exacting preconditions. In addition to a proven democratic system of government and free market economy, potential members had give evidence of their ability to cooperate.
Although throughout their history, small East Central European countries have struggled for their national independence; cooperation among them was limited. As a matter of fact, their oppressors often exploited the prevalent ethnic rivalries.
To improve their chances for integration with Western Europe, and to give evidence of their willingness to cooperate, in April 1990, on the initiative of Vaclav Havel, president of Czechoslovkia, and other newly elected heads of state, Jozsef Antall, prime minister of Hungary and Lech Walesa, president of Poland met in Bratislava, Czechslovakia, to discuss future cooperation in the fields of politics and commerce. They met consequently on February 15, 1991, in Visegrad, Hungary, to formalize their initiative. They called their newly formed group the Visegrad Troika. After the 1993 separation of the Czech and Slovak Federated Republic, the group was referred to as the Visegrad Four or the Visegrad Group.
In 1993, as a consequence of the break up of the Czech and the Slovak republics, the future of the cooperation of the Group became doubtful. The conservative Czech prime minister, Vaclav Klaus, dismissed the significance of the Visegrad Group and called it an empty shell and a "poor men's club." In fact, the Czechs believed that a close link with the Visegrad Group members would jeopardize their own progress of integration with the West.
In the early 1990s, the Czech Republic was indeed ahead of its Visegrad partners. It had a better-developed industrial sector, it was more urbanized, and agriculture was a relatively small segment of the economy. Therefore, its admission into the European Union appeared to be less burdensome than that of Poland with its large agricultural sector. Also, the Czech Republic was ethnically homogeneous and did not have the festering ethnic conflict that had been haunting the Hungarian and Slovak relations.
As for the other Visegrad partners, Hungary had no conflict with the non-contiguous Czech Republic and Poland. Especially with Poland, Hungary had historically good relations. After the breakup of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia automatically became a member of the Visegrad Group. But the nationalist policies of Vladimir Meciar, Slovakia's prime minister, did not favor cooperation with its neighbors.
By the mid-1990s, among the Visegrad members, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland made significant progress in transforming their countries to democracy, while the Meciar-led Slovakia was faltering. Western democracies were putting increasingly more pressure on Slovakia to live up to precepts of democracy. To reward their progress, the Czech, Republic, Hungary and Poland were invited to join NATO, leaving the laggard Slovakia behind.
Eventually, the Slovak people realized the damage inflicted on their country by Meciar's isolationist, nationalist, and anti-Western policies. In 1998, they turned him out of office, and Slovakia made strides to catch up with its Visegrad partners. After years of stagnation, in 1999, after Slovakia reversed its course, the Visegrad Group decided to revitalize their cooperation and jointly relaunched efforts to speed up the European Union membership of the four countries.'' On May 16, 1999, the prime ministers of the Visegrad Group held a summit meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia to show solidarity with the newly elected Slovakian prime minister, Mikulas Dzurinda.
The V4 defense ministers decided to form a battle group in May 2011, agreeing that their armed forces should hold regular exercises in conjunction with the NATO Response Force.
On 06 March 2013 Polish, Hungarian, Slovak and Czech defense ministers signed a letter of intent to form a battle group with soldiers from the Visegrád countries, which is to be a part of the European Union Rapid Reaction Force, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said. The agreement was signed during the Visegrád Group (V4) summit in Warsaw, also attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.
The training of soldiers culminated in November 2015 during the international certification exercise Common Challenge 2015 in Poland. The V4 Countries’ EU Battle-Group is a joint project of the Visegrad Group within the Joint European Defence and Security Policy.
The Visegrád battle group will have 3,000 servicemen, including 1,200 contributed by Poland. Siemoniak said this is the first step toward promoting military cooperation in Central Europe. “Multilateral cooperation in the security and defense areas is especially relevant today, as many countries are cutting their defense spending,” he said.
The combat group of Visegrad-Four Group's (V4) countries (Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary) had a ceremonial line-up in January 2016. The 538 soldiers who would serve in the European Union are already prepared and on combat alert. The group featured some 3,900 soldiers including support units, of which some 12 percent of soldiers were deployed by Slovakia.
For the following six months, members of the mechanized company, RCHBO company, transport company, and supporting units, together with staff members, would be ready for deployment within 6,000 kilometers around Brussels. These forces would be able to be engaged at any desired location within ten days following an EU decision. Based on the decision of EU institutions, the battle-group would fulfil tasks like separating the factions of a conflict, stabilizing, reconstruction and military consultancy towards third countries, evacuations, assist in tasks for humanitarian operations or prevention of conflicts.
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