On Tuesday, October 11th 2016, the GLOBSEC Policy Institute (GPI) participated on roundtable discussion organized by the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy (CEID) in Prague called: V4+ Security – Strengthening the Eastern Frontier of the V4. The first roundtable discussion of the initiative, chaired by Dániel Barthathe Executive Director of CEID, was devoted to the introduction of the project to the respective parties and participants. Discussions were structured to address the issues of V4 cooperation within the areas of defence planning, defence industry and the potential involvement of Ukraine and Moldova into future cooperative frameworks. GLOBSEC Policy Institute  – together with the Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy (CEID), EUROPEUM- Institute for European Policy, Casimir Pulaski Foundation, the Foreign Policy Association of Moldova and the Foreign Policy Council „Ukrainian Prism” – is among the main partners of this project. Next roundtables – devoted to expert cooperation on intelligence sharing, anti-propaganda measures, joint exercises & missions, education and cyber security – will take place during the upcoming months in Kyiv and Bratislava.

Ján Jireš, the Defence Policy Director at the Czech Ministry of Defence had the opening speech on the current state of relations between the V4 and countries on its Eastern neighbourhood. Mr. Jireš commented on the considerable lack of reform drive in these countries due to the lack of EU´s power of attraction – which is having a dire impact on the feasibility of the EU´s policy of membership conditionality. He spoke about the worrying trend of short-sighted approach of the western political elites and media in relation to this region. Finally, Mr. Jireš reiterated the importance in engaging V4 neighbouring countries and assisting them in process of the security sector reform.

After the opening remark, the participant discussed in a structured format on the Ukrainian and Moldovan perspectives on V4-related cooperation and on the V4 cooperation within the realm of defence. The roundtable concluded that while Ukraine is interested in V4 Battlegroup cooperation, there is a perceived lack of enthusiasm on V4-side about the efficacy of inclusion. While the political and strategic aspects of the cooperation are relevant, a bottom-up approach is also highly needed both in case of V4-Moldova and V4-Ukraine cooperation – concentrating on practical issues, such as: teaching Ukrainian sailors basic English. While there is constantly small public support for NATO membership, the support for enhanced cooperation with the West might be more sizeable both in Ukraine and Moldova.

Over the course of previous three years, Moldova has experienced a significant decrease in public support of NATO membership (from almost 40% to 20%) – despite the ongoing conflict on the East of Ukraine. While, there is an existing political ambition in exploring NATO cooperation, the huge lack in political ownership of the project is a major constrain for any complex interactions.  Participants expressed their concerns regarding the lack of media plurality in Moldova and highlighted the significant role of Russian media in forming public opinion about the region. Moldova participants concluded with an encouraging statement that the image of NATO can be enhanced with more active public policy and securing the political ownership of the idea of cooperation with the West.

Defence policy experts from the Casimir Pulaski Foundation presented and discussed their policy policy on ´Industrial and R&D co-operation in the field of defence within V4´. Experts across the table agreed that V4 Cooperation within the realm of defence has been for number of years significantly complicated by the lack of funds during budgetarily challenging times of the post-financial crisis fiscal environment. While the concept of ´pooling and sharing´ is an attractive idea of paper, in practice only few countries are interested in balancing the sharing part with the pooling part of cooperation. Even though every V4 country seems to be interested in some form and level of military modernization, the individual approach still dominates in modernization and procurement considerations in the region. This is caused by several factors. As the participants highlighted, notable differences exist in the structure of defence industries of V4 – f.e.: 90% of Czech defence industrial output is export oriented – exactly the opposite of the Polish model. Significant proportion (well over 90%) of companies within the military-industrial-complex are essentially oriented towards dual-use (civilian and military) production.

The experts agreed that V4 countries have so far failed to find added-value in efficient defence cooperation. Thus, the V4 cooperation model is hardly the best proven model to emulate for Eastern neighbours – contrary to the Nordic countries (NORDEFCO) cooperative framework that proved to be more productive and efficient in defence (political, industrial, expert) cooperation.

As participants stated, the underdevelopment of the military-industrial base in some of the V4 countries makes symmetrical cooperation within the V4 essentially impossible – due to the lack of production, research and technological development that these countries would offer for sharing. Finally, while the experts agreed that there is an ambition to establish both EDA-based and V4-based R&D funds, there is also an evident acknowledgement that crucial political leadership has been missing in each V4 country as investment in defence-oriented R&D is being politically neglected as much as general industrial R&D investments.