On Sunday 8 December 2019, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Benelux and the Visegrad Group resumed their tradition and met in Brussels at the joint invitation of Luxembourg's Presidency of the Benelux Union and the Czech Republic's Presidency of the Visegrad Group.
In a joint statement, the Benelux and Visegrad Group countries explained the decision to symbolically hold their meeting in Brussels, an EU capital, on the occasion of Europe's commemorations of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. This historic moment saw the Visegrad countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) especially play a significant role in leading a larger region of Central and Eastern Europe in their search for freedom and democracy. This event also marked the beginning of the common endeavour to reunify Europe after more than 40 years of separation, a process which still bears a number of challenges and which, according to the statement, remains a priority for the countries of the Benelux and the Visegrad Group.
The common meetings of the Benelux and Visegrad countries traditionally seek to address the most topical problems to which the EU is exposed and to improve mutual understanding through dialogue. The scope of issues discussed did not exclude themes where different opinions exist with the ministers touching upon the topics of migration, EU enlargement, rule of law and energy and climate in a quest for mutual understanding and common positions.
According to this joint statement, the results of the May 2019 European election confirmed the trust of the majority of EU citizens in the European project. Nevertheless, the EU still has to face internal challenges, while aspiring to a more prominent role on the global scene vis-à-vis the ambitions of a number of third countries with increasingly competing views on current international relations.
In this spirit, the ministers present reconfirmed their common goal: to enhance common responsibility to build a strong, effective, competitive and secure Europe based on the values of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and freedoms, as well as the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. They also expressed their readiness to explore avenues for rational, sensible and proportional solutions shared by all European citizens.
Similarly, the ministers took stock of current challenges faced by society and the environment that stem from insufficient action at the global level and acknowledged the importance of multilateralism in order to protect global trade rules, tackle climate change and ensure environmental protection and sustainable development. They also stressed the need to focus on the full and effective implementation of Single Market rules, including in order to advance the digital economy and to foster innovations in this area. In this regard, they underlined the importance of further strengthening the EU's role at the global level.
In addition, the Benelux and Visegrad Group ministers emphasised their belief that the proposals of the new European Commission, following the EU Strategic agenda 2019 – 2024, will offer constructive and balanced solutions to these pressing issues and smooth out differences as well as prevent new dividing lines between countries.
They agreed that the EU perspective on future accession of the Western Balkan countries needs to remain credible and that they are ready to engage constructively in an effort to enhance the effectiveness of the accession process.
The ministers also discussed the impact of Brexit and expressed the view that the Withdrawal Agreement is the best possible outcome as regards the ongoing Brexit process. They stressed their desire to establish a close, efficient and complex partnership between the EU and the UK as soon as possible, building on the expectation that a level playing field in all relevant fields will need to be maintained if a comprehensive market access is sought. For this purpose, they maintained that negotiations on future relations should start immediately after the UK's withdrawal.