25 February, 2013 – 10:30 to 16:15

The current economic crisis has weakened the EU’s common institutions and boosted the relative power of member-states. In an EU with a handful of large countries and many smaller ones, in which economic and political priorities vary from one part of Europe to another, regional groups of states will become an important tool for exercising influence. They allow medium- and smaller-sized countries to speak eye-to-eye with the larger ones, and to make sure specific regional concerns are heard. Central Europe is one such region, with a number of shared interests such as sound fiscal policies within the EU, and developing the North-South axis in energy infrastructure.

How influential Central Europe becomes depends in large part on how effectively it can organise itself on the regional level. The current trend in the region points in the opposite direction. Some countries are turning inward (Hungary, Romania) or have been preoccupied with domestic issues (Czech Republic). Regional groupings exist, such as Visegrad, but they have not been able to avoid divisions on key EU issues such as banking union. While Central Europe’s collective influence in the EU is often lesser than the sum of its parts, the Nordic countries offer a model of effective co-operation, pooling their resources across a wide spectrum of sectors, from airlines to defence co-operation and diplomatic presentations.

The Central European Policy Institute and the demosEUROPA launched this project to start generating ideas on how to reinvigorate regional co-operation, and how to strengthen Central Europe’s voice in the EU and beyond.

The Group will hold two meetings – one in Bratislava on 24-25 February and the second in Warsaw on 6-7 June – with an additional mid-term session on the margins of the GLOBSEC conference in Bratislava on 18-20 April. Those participating will be senior Central European officials and thinkers; 10 – 12 total. Programming papers will be drafted for each of the High Level Group meetings in the first half of 2013. The first meeting will be devoted to setting the scope of this project and identifying the key joint issues on the policy agenda of Central European countries as well as best ways of pursuing them. The second meeting will focus on the implications of the eurozone crisis on Central Europe and the ways in which the region can position itself in the multi-tier and multi-speed European Union. The work of the Group will feed into a joint report to be presented in the second half of 2013.

Closed door expert meeting