The DAV4 expert group report, presented in Bratislava on Wednesday, highlights the benefits of establishing joint regional units and suggests that the Visegrad EU battlegroup, which will be operational in 2016, is only the beginning of broader Visegrad cooperation in the field of defence.
“After the end of the unit’s six-month stand-by period in 2016, the Visegrad countries will contribute their forces to EU and NATO emergency units. Therefore, it would make more sense to create joint formations on a regional basis – allowing the V4 to modernise its forces, improve their compatibility, increase the V4’s political influence in Brussels and make for a more effective public spending”, explains Milan Šuplata, head of the Central European Policy Institute’s Security and Defence Programme.
The report lays out options for further cooperation, suggesting that the battlegroups recur periodically in the Visegrad format. This would allow the four Central European countries to use existing mechanisms as well as contacts and move the region closer to joint capability-building, not only through joint acquisitions, but also through common education, training and maintenance.
“Regional defence co-operation attracts increasing attention not just in official documents of the V4 defence ministries, but also in their government offices,” said Jaroslav Naď, CEPI’s senior fellow and deputy CEO of the Strategy Council. “It is encouraging to see that concrete recommendations and outputs of the DAV4 project are gradually becoming a sort of a guide book for defence experts.”
The report itself is the result of the work of four V4 think-tanks, including the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), which is the biggest and most influential non-governmental organisation in Central Europe. This regional co-operation project is funded by the International Visegrad Fund (IVF).
István Gyarmati, one of the authors of the report and the president of the Budapest-based Centre for Democracy Public Foundation (DEMKK), emphasized that now is the time to boost regional defence co-operation as, amid the ongoing economic crisis, security policy has been dropped from the EU’s list of priorities. Hence, the Visegrad region’s co-operation in the field of defence could serve as a catalyst of further defence co-operation in Europe.
The Visegrad expert group drew from the experience of the Nordic countries, which have created their own model of regional defence co-operation. Nevertheless, Jozef Bátora, associate professor and director of the Institute of European Studies and International Relations at Comenius University, Bratislava, pointed out that, in contrast to the NORDEFCO model, the V4 has an important advantage, as all members of the V4 defence grouping are members of both the EU and NATO.