Today countries of the Visegrad Cooperation (V4 – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) are facing a twofold pressure. On the one hand, the negative consequences of the economic crisis still have dramatic impacts on the defence expenditures of three of the V4 countries; on the other hand, the amortization of military equipment urges defence ministries to respond to the pressing need of modernization. This all happen in a security environment which is becoming more and more fragile both at the eastern and southern borders of NATO and the EU.
Under these circumstances, any form of defence cooperation which increases synergies and cost-effectiveness among its participants is valuable and desirable. When Hungary took over the rotational annual presidency of the Visegrad Cooperation from Poland in July 2013, a strong commitment was clearly stated to direct defence-related initiatives towards a more visible and effective form of cooperation within the V4. Based on the achievements of the Polish presidency, Hungary vowed to establish those frameworks and political guidelines that enable the V4 to act on the European political scene with more visibility, credibility and with practical results. Thus, besides the bottom-up approach that characterised our cooperation in the past, a top-down approach has also been introduced to channel strategic intentions, which was manifested in the joint statement of our Prime Ministers last October.
Due to the highest political attention, defence cooperation has become a flagship area of the V4 cooperation.
The statement clearly defined the tasks to be fulfilled in the defence sector during the Hungarian presidency and even beyond.
One of the tasks was to organize common V4 exercises every year. The underlying idea was that common exercising would not only improve the interoperability of our forces, but would enhance the culture of cooperation, and could have a spill-over effect to other areas of cooperation as well. The second task was to strengthen defence planning cooperation among our countries. It is worthy of note, that the four states had already shared their defence and procurement plans with each other in 2013, but according to the tasking of the Heads of Governments, this should be regular, systematic and structured. The third tasking was to elaborate a long-term vision which would give further guidelines on how to move our defence cooperation forward in the long run. The existence of the strategy was also crucial from capability development point of view: if we wanted to see gains from our investments, we have to plan on the long-term and set our common goals in advance.
Long Term Vision on Deepening Visegrad Defence Cooperation
Elaborating a strategic document on how to improve our defence cooperation in the next 5 to 10 years was the most important tasking of the Prime Ministers. We have realized that besides talking about our present and near term projects we have to try defining those final goals or desired end state towards which we need to drive these projects. We need to investigate thoroughly and comprehensively all possible areas of cooperation and chose those ones where by making deals and compromises a win-win situation can be achieved in the future. This is not possible without suitable resources so
we committed ourselves to at least maintain and once economic situation makes it possible, increase our defence spending in order to better align with the resource guideline in NATO’s Political Guidance.
The Long Term Vision of the Visegrad Countries on Deepening Their Defence Cooperation was signed on the 14th of March 2014. It focuses mainly but not exclusively on three critical areas: 1) capability development, procurement and defence industry; 2) establishment of multinational units and running cross border activities; 3) education, training and exercises.
Common capability development and procurement are based on harmonization of our defence plans. This process is enhanced by the Framework Document on Defence Planning Cooperation, which established the structure and mechanism to be in place in order to facilitate the identification and implementation of capability development areas and projects.
Establishment of common multinational units is a long term endeavour, which would provide the highest visibility and the greatest political benefits. With regard to the V4 EU Battlegroup, our experts have long argued that it should not be an isolated project. It should be part of a broader capability development and transformation strategy and should also be preserved for the future either as a periodically recurring Battlegroup, or some of its elements could be kept as a force package on the long run. The Long Term Vision provides an answer to this and building on the lessons learned from our V4 EU Battlegroup foresees the establishment of a common regional, modular unit, which could be offered for NATO, EU or other international purposes as well.
When it comes to defence cooperation we cannot forget about trainings and exercises, which is the best way of strengthening interoperability among our forces and provide high visibility to our cooperation. In the Long Term Vision we made a commitment to hold annual common V4 exercises starting from 2015, which is also a contribution from the Visegrad countries to NATO’s Connected Forces Initiative. In this context, I think we made a very wise and important decision last November when we initiated to link our V4 EU BG certification exercise to NATO’s high visibility exercise “Trident Juncture 2015”. With our joint participation, we could further reinforce the “V4 brand” and contribute to enhancing NATO-EU cooperation besides saving money. I also believe that by building on the lessons of this exercise, we could make progress in the area of our annual V4 exercise, and we are going to be able to maintain and further enhance our cooperation.
To support the implementation of the objectives of the Long Term Vision, an Action Plan will be elaborated providing description of concrete joint projects and initiatives that are either being considered or are worth exploring for the future.
The New Opening Concept circulated by Poland at the beginning of April contains very concrete project proposals which are needed to be taken forward and could serve as a basis for the Action Plan of the Long Term Vision.
The Visegrad Defence Planning Cooperation
Defence planning was one of the concrete areas where we laid down the foundation of enhanced cooperation. There has been a significant drive in the Visegrad Group to develop military capabilities together and identify projects from mutually beneficial capability development areas. The four countries have already shared their defence and procurement plans with each other and have also taken part in each other’s bilateral meetings with NATO. However, except for two projects that include all four Visegrad states (the multinational CBRN battalion and the Joint Logistic Support Group), we could account for little success in the field of capability development so far.
Under the Hungarian presidency, the four states recognized that there was a need for a structured defence planning cooperation that enabled the systematic exploration of defence and procurement plans, the selection of most promising areas of cooperation and the harmonization of plans accordingly. According to the defence planning document called
‘Framework for an Enhanced Visegrad Defence Planning Cooperation’, our defence planning cooperation would take the results of the NATO Defence Planning Process and it would be complemented by the products of the national defence planning processes and the experiences of the V4 EU Battlegroup force generation when identifying areas of common interest for capability development.
The document endorsed the basic principle that in case of major acquisitions it should be a general rule to first examine the possibility of a common or coordinated procurement, whether in quadrilateral, trilateral or bilateral formations. In this process we are striving to promote V4 defence industry in the best possible manner involving as much Visegrád defence companies as possible. We were aware that this idea might be somewhat controversial and would require a significant change in our working process, but it was an important step to take for the success of our