On May 14, I hosted my counterparts from the foreign ministries of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia. These four Central European countries form a consultative group called the Visegrád Four, or V4. Although under Communist rule from the 1940s until 1989, in less than a generation they have successfully built democratic governments and transitioned to market economies, earning membership in NATO and the European Union.
They have proven valuable allies, not least in protecting Americans in conflict zones. The Czech Republic is currently our protecting power in Syria, where its Embassy provides critical assistance to American citizens still in that country. Poland previously performed this duty in Syria and for over a decade in Iraq, and in 2011 Hungary served as our protecting power in Libya. As my Polish counterpart Ambassador Jarosław Bratkiewicz said, "In a multi-polar world, Europe and the United States must collaborate strongly to meet shared challenges."
We work with the V4 countries as key partners in the transatlantic community. My Hungarian colleague, Péter Sztáray, noted how much the V4 countries contribute on a broad range of issues, from their roles in NATO and Afghanistan, where V4 countries have troops standing alongside us, to supporting democratic transitions around the world. Czech Political Director Pavel Fischer made an excellent point when describing why the United States' partnership with the V4 and other European partners is so crucial, and works so well -- because we cooperate in advancing shared values such as the spread of democracy and the expansion of prosperity in the United States, Europe, and beyond. My Slovak colleague, Ľubomír Rehák, spoke about the importance of working together to further the integration of the Western Balkans into Europe, and I noted that this is an area where we value the insights and guidance of the V4, given their profound expertise in the region. With their significant contributions to advancing shared values and addressing global challenges, these countries truly "punch above their weight."
Our meeting closed on a lighter note when we discussed how Slovakia beat the United States in the World Championships in Finland just before our meeting: another good example of our shared interests with the V4 countries!
About the Author: Wendy R. Sherman serves as Under Secretary for Political Affairs.