On Thursday, 9 April 2015, Central European Policy Institute (CEPI) hosted a panel debate on V4 defence cooperation chaired by CEPI’s Senior Fellow Marian Majer. In the framework of the debate, CEPI presented its new DAV4 III Expert Group Report: From bullets to supersonics: V4 on the brink of industrial cooperation. Findings of a recently published report by the Institute of European Studies and International Relations at Comenius University and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) entitled Regional Defense Cooperation: Lessons from Norden and Visegrad were also presented.
Jozef Bátora, Associate Professor and Director at the Institute of European Studies and International Relations at Comenius University in Bratislava, pointed out lessons that V4 could learn from the Nordic cooperation including the need to coordinate threat perceptions and identify procurement needs early. Zoltán Bali, Head of the Defence Planning Department, Ministry of Defence of Hungary emphasized that Hungary would like V4 defence to become more institutionalized, operating on three pillars: training and operational cooperation, defence planning cooperation and armament with link to defence industry. In reality, the V4 defence cooperation has however only functioned on operational level. V4 was not able to identify any joint procurement project.
According to Gabriel Merňák, former National Armaments Director, Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic, since 1991 V4 has been quite successful project, but in the area of armaments planning, it is totally different chapter. In order to strengthen the cooperation, it is necessary to follow basic principle: defence and security and affordability of defence capabilities should be primarily national responsibility including not only defence investment, but also transparent spending. Martin Michelot, Non-Resident Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Paris, provided an outside perception of the V4 defence cooperation. According to Michelot, taking into account certain level of disappointment with regard to V4’s unity after the Ukraine crisis, V4 should proactively come up with reasonable expectations that can be satisfied, while focusing on predictability and reliability as the key factors for outside partners.
Overall, panelists agreed that despite proclaimed political will, there has been little done in the area of V4 defence industry cooperation. Perhaps, the goals were set too high or the implementation is more difficult than expected. Nevertheless, in the current security environment, the V4 defence cooperation will continue, while it should focus more on carrying out already agreed objectives.