Based on the 2nd Event Cooperation Infrastructure, held on the 20th of May, 2021. 

The work of V4SDG, since the beginning, has been hallmarked by the strive to lead the Visegrad region on a sustainable path with stakeholders from various sectors. Our new endeavour – V4@30 – encompasses this mission and will kick-off on 24 June with a grand event titled: Cooperation for Sustainability – The new purpose of the V4. 

Given that cooperation lies at the core of the vision V4SDG envisioned for the Visegrad region, the second Expert Discussion revolved around the ways through which we can foster common ground when thinking about future pathways. The session was moderated by our Compass Team Officer, Csaba Farkas-Páll. It was our pleasure the welcome our guest experts:

  • Amb. Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi – Executive Director, International Visegrád Fund
  • Mr Krzysztof Biliński – Research Fellow, International Sustainable Finance Centre (ISFC)/Green Dealers Foundation
  • Ms Romana Březovská – Analyst, AMO Research Center

The opening point of the discussion might as well serve to draw up the problem definition which the V4 countries ought to tackle; the issue of sustainability areas which need cross-border action. Ms Szilágyiné Bátorfi was the first to address the global impact of our actions, the often unintended externalities which have consequences not only on our health and nature, but are also a notorious heritage for the upcoming generations. She raised the issue of air and water pollution which may only be imagined in a regional format to be tackled and warned about the complexity that is inherent to this approach, namely the fact that shortly we might enter the age where basic resources become tradeable, opening an ethical dimension beside the socio-economical and environmental side. Another highly relevant point she raised was connected to the reduction of energy consumption and waste in our region. Central to Ms Szilágyiné Bátorfi’s point was information production when it comes to setting up indicators that could serve to monitor where we stand in areas, such as waste production and energy portfolio, and show these to the public. In her view, the regional context remains vital to “find better solutions, compare data, and share best practice on all levels…because all layers must be involved to succeed”. To that end, the International Visegrad Fund (IVF) is aimed at advancing innovative ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe through allocating grants to organizations and projects, such as V4SDG.

Thereafter, the discussion drifted towards the issue of varying interests of actors, and what could be effective strategies to bring these together in implementing sustainability measures. Ms Březovská, designing adaptation strategies herself, argued that the legal framework in which we are operating, such as the EU Taxonomy, have a tremendous role in facilitating conversations. Previously, not a lot of people were interested in the carbon footprint of private entities and deemed approaches towards neutrality intangible for instance. By now, such issues are covered in the news, being discussed on high level platforms, and cities are developing their own strategies. She argued that the ‘legal playground’ helps sharing the common vision between stakeholders and brings together the interests of private and non-private sectors. It is their combined work that paves the way towards reaching ambitious goals set by the EU, most notably the targets of the European Green Deal (EGD).

Following the issue of interest, we must consider how people perceive sustainability in their everyday lives. Mr Biliński helped in this matter by bringing us closer to  a recently emerging idea that pushed the casue of sustainability further. In his view, designing the sort of discussions that target innovation could be revitalized through a future literacy framework. This formula orients the focus towards anticipating the future and finding ways on how to adapt to constantly changing contexts. He argues that when it comes to bringing forward ideas to the table, stakeholders are hesitant to discuss climate neutrality for example because it may be controversial in some contexts. The future literacy framework specifically tackles this inhibitor by creating a safe space to think about future scenarios, hence it instantly becomes easier to take up agency which is currently lacking in the Visegrad Region. In a multi-stakeholder fashion, we may all participate in designing future realities by having a picture in our minds about the city we live in for example. While it has nothing to do with technology, these innovative soft-skills can help finding alternative solutions.

Throughout the session there were disputes about certain institutional frameworks that may help foster Sustainability Cooperation. In Mr Biliński’s view there might be an enhanced willingness to cooperate through an institutional setting, a V4 sustainability council for example. He argued that momentarily we are unable to translate the high ambitions of our regions to tangible action plans that countries and cities could rely on for guidance. When thinking in terms of progress, the creation of a similar institution must entail imagining the outputs it could yield with respect to our resources and the Visegrad population. Ms Szilágyiné Bátorfi pointed out that the V4 is “famous for not having institutions”, and so communication is reduced to V4 ministries meeting regularly to exchange views. However, such meetings may end without tangible proposals when there are no capacities to back up our ambitions, and appointing a new institution won’t necessarily bring us closer to solutions. She envisions setting up hubs of information and smooth communication in the region, where each entity can bring forward their innovative solution. Moving back to indicators, through the hubs we could check who is doing the right things to reduce pollution, or who adjusts best to future challenges. As implementation remains key, the IVF focuses on providing grants for endeavours, such as the discussed innovation hubs, to reach governments with their policy proposals. During the discussion our expert speakers seemed to share a strong common sentiment that Sustainability Cooperation ought to lie at the core of future pathways for the Visegrad Region.

On the 24th of June, we will be holding our kick-off event for our #V4@30 Campaign: Cooperation for Sustainability – The new purpose of the V4. During the event, we will be discussing our mission and strategy to achieve greater cooperation in the field of sustainability in the V4 region.

Please do join us for what promises to be the beginning of an exciting journey! You can register via: https://forms.gle/rjsWFZbLTvxHGoKz8

Written by: Barnabas Palffy.