After sessions in Prague and Warsaw, the Slovak Atlantic Commission held the third session of the Visegrád School of Political Studies (VSPS) in Bratislava on 1- 3 July 2015. The focus was on defence and security issues. Future Visegrád leaders discussed opportunities that lie ahead of V4 defence cooperation, cyber security cooperation and actively participated in simulation on EU battlegroup and tested their V4 knowledge during the V4 quiz.

VSPS is a joint project of the Council of Europe and the European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw. The project is supported by the International Visegrad Fund and organised in cooperation with the Antall Jószef Knowledge Center in Budapest, the Diplomatic Academy of Prague.

On the first day of the session, participants were officially welcomed by Mr Róbert Vass, Vice-President  & CEO of the Central European Strategy Council, who also introduced further projects and activities of the Slovak Atlantic Commission, a member of the Central European Strategy Council along with its partner organisation, the Center for European Affairs, and think-tank, the Central European Policy Institute.

The emerging Visegrad leaders then met Ms. Karla Wursterová, Executive Director at the International Visegrad Fund who shared with them more details on the functioning of the International Visegrad Fund, which has a headquarters in Bratislava. Ms. Wursterová shared her view on the functioning of the V4 at the moment and underlined in the discussion that in her opinion Visegrad is certainly not a dying project as there are many good examples of how it works already proved by a number of V4 initiatives and projects. Moreover, she stressed that all of us can work towards strengthening of the V4 ties even more. Knowledge of leaders, foreign and V4 current affairs was tested in the V4 quiz, which proved that all four V4 representatives in an each team were of great importance in order to master all questions.

An insightful discussion on V4 cooperation followed. Chaired by Mário Nicolini, GLOBSEC Policy Briefs Coordinator at the Central European Strategy Council the debate offered space for debate with a distinguished guest Mr. Igor Slobodník, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic. In spite of initial distrust on V4 defence cooperation, highlighted mainly by Polish participants, Mr. State Secretary has managed to dissolve all the doubts and emphasized the importance of all four V4 governments in achieving closer defence collaboration among Visegrad region in the future.

The evaluation of the V4 presidency of the Slovak Republic was also on the agenda and it had been very timely as the Czech Republic took over in the V4 from the Slovak Republic on 1 July 2015. The first day was concluded with a welcome dinner at the Zylinder restaurant, chosen due to its symbolic historical boundaries to Pressburg alive with the aromatic smells of the best foods from the former Habsburg monarchy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

During the second day of the session, several separate discussions on V4 foreign policy and V4 defence cooperation were held with Major Gen. Pavel Macko, 2nd Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces and some of the finest senior experts from the Central European Policy Institute (CEPI). Mr. Marian Majer, Head of the Security and Defence Policy Programme at CEPI, Mr. Milan Šuplata, Senior Fellow at CEPI and Major Gen. Macko discussed main points of the V4 defence policy with special attention to the joint V4 procurements with the participants of the VSPS. The second part of the debate was on EU battlegroup, its functioning and deployment and the V4 EU battlegroup in 2016. The series of these discussions was concluded at a simulation led by Mr. Andrej Chovan, Acting Head of Central Europe Programme at CEPI, where participants applied their new skills and knowledge acquired during the previous sessions.

The last day of the session was concluded with a very insightful and useful discussion on cyber security in Central European countries with Senior Virus Researcher Mr. Peter Košinár from ESET. Participants were mostly interested in the cyber attacks and how the cyber companies can cooperate with V4 governments to become stronger players in cyber warfare. During the last session, all participants presented their work within four working groups on different topics such as V4 energy security, public diplomacy and information war in Central Europe and defence and security cooperation of the V4. The final essays and policy briefs will be presented in September 2015. The last session of the series will take place in autumn in Budapest, Hungary.