On Wednesday, 18th September 2013, the first group of 30 students of the Visegrád School of Political Studies attended the Inauguration Ceremony in the Przeździecki Palace in Warsaw. The guests of honor were Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland and Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski. The opening speeches were followed by a panel discussion on V4 democratization experiences and a question and answer session. The ceremony concluded with a coffee break and networking for all of the invited guests.
In the afternoon of the 18th of September, all participants attended the conference “The Hate Factor in Political Speech. Where do responsibilities lie?” hosted by the Ministry of Administration and Digitalization. During the following days, participants discussed transparency and fighting corruption on regional and local levels. The introductory lecture was given by Adam Bodnar, the President of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the workshop was moderated by David Ondracka, director of Transparency International Czech Republic. Participants also met Dr. Katarzyna Pisarska, director and founder of the European Academy of Diplomacy, Mr. Wojciech Przybylski, editor in chief of Visegrád Insight, and Mr. Milan Zubicek and H.E. Ivan Gyurcsik, the Hungarian Ambassador in Warsaw.
The second session of the Visegrád School of Political Studies started on Wednesday, 23rd October, 2013 with a focus on Roma and Minority Rights. Two lectures were conducted by Dr. Magdalena Różycka from the Department of Religious Institutions and National and Ethnic Minorities of the Ministry of Administration in Poland and Dr. Andrzej Mirga, head of the Roma & Sinti Contact Point, ODIHR. Participants met Amb. Urszula Gacek, head of Polish Permanent Representation to the Council of Europe, Mr. Tomasz Szypuła, chairman of the LGBT Business Forum and Joanna Butryn, representative of the Vital Voice Chapter Poland. Participants were also invited to take part in the Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy 2013 program which was held at Natolin.
The second edition of the Visegrád School of Political Studies was inaugurated on 26 March 2014 in Warsaw, followed by three sessions held in Prague, Bratislava and Budapest. Participants were also invited to attend the annual World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, France.
During the first session, participants met the representative of the Hungarian Embassy as Hungary held the presidency of the V4 – Dr. Dávid Gorombolyi; editor-in-chief of Visegrad Insight, Mr. Wojciech Przybylski; director and founder of the European Academy of Diplomacy, Dr. Katarzyna Pisarska; political campaigning advisor Mr. Radek Ciszewski; and Anna Dryjańska representing “Fundacja Feminoteka”. The last panel discussion focused on LGBT regulation in V4 and was held by Mr. Tomasz Szypuła and Ms. Anna Grodzka – the first transgender MP in Europe.
The second session of the Visegrád School of Political Studies organized by the Diplomatic Academy at Chateau Trnová near Prague started on Wednesday, 28 May 2014, with a focus on the role of the Visegrád in the European Union. MVDr. Milena Vicenová from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Dr. Hana Lenghartová provided a practical focus and introduced the participants to the rules and nuances needed for successful negotiation and mediation. Participants also met with former Minister of Finance of the Czech Republic and Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, Ivan Pilip and Director of the Diplomatic Academy and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Cyril Svoboda.
The third session of the Visegrád School of Political Studies, co-organized by the Slovak Atlantic Commission, started on Wednesday, 16 July 2014, with a focus on the role of theVisegrád in the European Union. Róbert Vass from the Central European Strategy Council and György Varga from International Visegrad Fund spoke about the role that the Visegrád can and should play in the EU, as well as the importance of regional cooperation in European institutions. The following sessions were led by Peter Košinár representing ESET; Milan Nič, the Managing Director of Central European Policy; and Jaroslav Nad, representative of the Central European Strategy Council. The last day of the workshop was focused on the use of critical thinking in decision making and mediation. All three sessions throughout the day were provided by Dr. Nasrin Davis, representing SwissInnovation.
The fourth session of the Visegrád School of Political Studies organized by the Antall József Knowledge Centre (AJKC) started on Wednesday, 24 September 2014, with a focus on the Corruption trends in Central and Northern Europe, represented by Peter Varga, the regional coordinator for Central and Northern Europe at Transparency International. The afternoon session was on integrity education of civil servants by Dr. Katalin Pallai from the National University of Public Service, followed by a visit to Hungarian Parliament and meetings with Mr. Mayer Zoltan, representing the Ministry of Interior of Hungary and Jan Alexander Wessel from AJKC.
The Special Judiciary Session was an initiative of the Visegrád School of Political Studies and the Hungarian Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, under the support of Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Tibor Navracsics. The 2-day seminar addressed the European Union’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights and challenges and opportunities of judicial Cooperation in the V4+ region. Its aim was to gather young politicians and civil servants from the Visegrád 4+ region – Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – and was designed to help increase involvement in ongoing discussions on judicial issues, to foster exchange of know-how, and to strengthen regional cooperation among a new Central European generation of political leaders.
Hungary’s 2014 presidency of the Visegrád Four provided the opportunity for organizing a special format: in 2014, the customary Meeting of Central European Ministers of Justice, which aimed to enhance regional cooperation, while providing an occasion for effective discussions on current judicial topics, and prepare and coordinate national positions for the council meetings of Justice Ministers of the European Union was to take place simultaneously with the seminar.
A conference jointly opened by the Council of Europe’s Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and Hungary’s Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Tibor Navracsics aimed at connecting the two events and focusing on the EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. The Opening Conference with the participation of justice ministers, high level presentations, and a roundtable discussion provided excellent opportunity to connect current leaders with future leaders.
The V4 meets EaP initiative is an extension of the current Visegrad School of Political Studies that aims to promote the collective and individual V4 democratic transition experience to young political, social and governmental leaders from Eastern Partnership countries. The V4 meets EaP has brought together more than 120 participants over 2 years from the EaP and V4 to undertake workshops that highlight EU integration, civil society development, and the general transitional experience.
Two editions of the program, held in June and September 2014 gathered over 50 participants from V4 and Eastern Partnership countries who met with Ambassador Prof. Dr. István Gyarmati, President of the International Centre for Democratic Transition (ICDT); Dr. Katarzyna Pisarska, director of the European Academy of Diplomacy; Dir. Jan Pastwa from the National School of Public Administration; and H.E. Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. They took part in discussions focused on the use of social media, twinning and institution building tool, lobbying, fighting corruption & political transparency and citizen diplomacy & civil society.
The 2014 edition of the program was co-financed by the International Visegrad Fund and the The Department of Public and Cultural Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland within the frames of the project “Public Diplomacy Cooperation 2014″.
The Visegrád School of Political Studies is a joint project of the Council of Europe and the European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw, supported by the International Visegrád Fund and organized in cooperation with the Antall Jószef Knowledge Center | Corvinus University, the Diplomatic Academy of Prague, and the Slovak Atlantic Commission.
The 2015 program brought together young politicians, civil society activists, journalists and civil servants from the countries of the Visegrád Group – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland & Slovakia – for 3-day seminars to help increase involvement in democratic processes, foster exchange of know-how, and strengthen regional cooperation among a new generation of Central European leaders.
The goal of the program was to develop participants’ ability to identify and solve the complex challenges facing Central European societies, as well as enhance their capacity to shape and strengthen the democratic processes in their respective countries. The School provided participants with the opportunity to establish a regional network of like-minded leaders, ready to take on greater responsibility for a more mature political culture in Central Europe and stronger leadership within the European Union. The program supported the Council of Europe’s mission of reinforcing democracy, human rights, and the rule of law on the European continent.
The program consisted of 4 thematic workshops held in each of the V4 capital cities – Bratislava, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw – and the annual World Forum for Democracy hosted at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in November of 2016. Participants engaged in discussions, case study analyses, and work groups focusing on contemporary thematic issues facing the VSPS and the European Union, such as:
Identifying the main challenges to the democratic process in the Visegrad Group
Strengthening the democratic process in the Visegrad countries
The Visegrad Group and the future of the European Union.
The V4 meets EaP initiative is an extension of the current Visegrad School of Political Studies that aims to promote the collective and individual V4 democratic transition experiences to young political, social and governmental leaders from Eastern Partnership countries. The V4 meets EaP has brought together more than 120 participants over 2 years from the EaP and V4 to undertake workshops focusing on EU integration, civil society development, and the general transitional experience.
The 2015 sessions were organized by the EAD, Antall Jozsef Knowledge Center, the Slovak Atlantic Commission, International Centre for Democratic Transition & the Diplomatic Academy of Prague. The CoE – SPS network in the EaP (Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, the Ukraine) provided recruitment and methodological support, including a needs assessment.
The V4 meets EaP was divided into several thematic blocks that included skills training. Topics discussed during the session covered the V4 transition experiences, successes & failures in regional V4 cooperation, use of twinning as an institution building tool, EU decision making and lobbying, social media campaigns for political activism, preparing official correspondence, grassroots movements to political parties, youth political party organization, citizen diplomacy & civil society, role of think-tanks in public policy, fighting corruption & political transparency.
The 2015 program was co-financed by the International Visegrad Fund and the Department of Public and Cultural Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland.
The program was a 100% scholarship initiative, with all fees, materials and meals (lunches and coffee breaks), and accommodation covered. Sessions were held in Warsaw.
Visegrad School of Political Studies Meets Russia aims at supporting civil society, combating stereotypes and strengthening ties between young social and political leaders from the Visegrad Group and Russia. Thanks to generous support from the Council of Europe and the Department of Public and Cultural Democracy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, the program is a full scholarship initiative, with all costs including travel covered. The sessions are organized by the European Academy of Diplomacy in cooperation with our Russian partner.
The program focuses on Eastern European experiences in the formation of institutions of civil society, the development of civil society and fostering participatory democracy, as well as social and cultural initiatives as a mechanism towards cooperation and public diplomacy.
The program was a scholarship initiative covering all costs except for visas. Sessions were held in Warsaw.
VSPS + Balkans was an extension of the Visegrad School of Political Studies (VSPS), promoting the experiences of the V4 democratic transitions, as well as European integration and cooperation to young political, social and governmental leaders from Western Balkan countries. The VSPS + Balkans consisted of one 3 day session, addressed to 16 participants from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The VSPS + Balkans continued the Visegrad School of Political Studies efforts of promoting V4 cooperation to the Western Balkan region and investing in human capital under the framework of CoE’s Schools of Political Studies that recruit young high potential leaders from media, public administration, political parties and civil society activists from V4 and Western Balkans.
The sessions were organized by the EAD, Antall Jozsef Centre, the Slovak Atlantic Commission, Diplomatic Academy of Prague, with promotion, recruitment and methodological support from the Academy of Political Studies in Albania, School of Political Studies Bosnia and Herzegovina, Academy for Political Development in Croatia, Pristina Institute for Political Studies, School of Democratic Leadership in Montenegro, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence and the School of Public Policy in Macedonia.
The VSPS + Balkans was divided into 2 thematic blocks. The first block covered the V4 democratic transition and experiences of European integration. The second block focused on current democratic transition processes undergoing in Western Balkans countries, thus allowing participants to develop a deeper understanding of both regions’ experiences and challenges and the extent the V4 experiences can be applied in Western Balkans.
The VSPS Western Balkans Program attracted young professionals from civic and non-governmental organizations, public administration, and media from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The program targeted equal representation of female participants.
The program was a scholarship initiative covering all costs except for visa (if applicable) and travel to Warsaw.
The session took place in Warsaw, 20 – 22 October 2015.
The 2017 edition of the Visegrad School of Political Studies Meets Russia was titled “Empowering Civil Society” and aimed at supporting civil society, combating stereotypes and strengthening ties between young social and political leaders from Europe and Russia. Through practical workshops, discussions and simulations, the participants were equipped with a tool kit necessary for their everyday work in civil society organizations or media outlets. The sessions were organized by the European Academy of Diplomacy in cooperation with our Russian partners.
In 2017, the VSPS Meets Russia initiative combined 5 elements:
March Session (20 – 24 March)
As part of the VSPS Meets Russia initiative, 5 participants from Arkhangelsk, Moscow, Novosibirsk and Voronezh were invited to join the Spring School of Diplomatic Skills – week-long soft skills workshops organized by the European Academy of Diplomacy.
The program was held on 20 – 24 March, 2017. It was focused on communication and included workshops such as: Public Speaking, Bilateral Negotiations, Diplomatic Protocol and Etiquette, Effective Meetings, Written Communication, Public Diplomacy, Social Media Campaigns, Leadership and Team Management. Apart from the Russian participants, the program gathered participants from Afghanistan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The multicultural environment contributed to the depth of discussion and presentation of various points of view. In general, the participants benefited from the program by having a chance to practice skills such as public speaking in a safe, encouraging environment.
June Session (5 – 9 June)
The June Session of the VSPS Meets Russia initiative, titled „Empowering Civil Society”, was designed for activists and NGO representatives. It aimed at supporting civil society, combating stereotypes and strengthening ties between young social and political leaders from Europe and Russia. Through practical workshops, discussions and simulations, the participants were equipped with a tool kit necessary for their everyday work in civil society organizations. The topics discussed were: project management, communication and PR for civil society organizations, social media campaigns, public speaking, leadership and team management and the development of civil society in the Visegrad countries.
The group included 8 Russian participants from Moscow, St Petersburg, and Barnaul, as well as Hungarians and Poles. They represented organizations dealing with issues such as: transparency and corruption, election observation, violations in healthcare system, civic education, legal assistance for refugees, cultural heritage protection and others. The diversity of the group allowed for a multifaceted discussion with diverse points of view and facilitated the creation of a network, which in the future can result in joint initiatives.
July Session (3 – 7 July)
On 3 – 7 July 2017, as part of the VSPS Meets Russia initiative, 3 participants from Russia attended the Diplomatic Skills Masterclass organized by the European Academy of Diplomacy.
The Diplomatic Skills Masterclass is designed for young and mid-career professionals from the international business, public administration and third sector. The course builds on previously acquired soft skills and presents an expanded set of topics that are designed to further prepare participants for the challenges and rigors of diplomacy, international business and working in multinational organizations in the 21st century.
During every edition, at least 12 countries are represented in a group of 20 participants. The diversity of backgrounds and nationalities ensures not only a perfect networking opportunity, but also a multifaceted perspective on all the issues covered during the program.
September Session (20 – 24 September)
VSPS Meets Russia September Session was designed for journalists and media representatives from Visegrad countries and Russia. The aim of the program was to provide the participants with knowledge and skills empowering them to act as both government watchdogs and initiators of positive social change. It encouraged them to promote reliable, fact-based journalism, focused on combating fake news and different types of censorship or propaganda.
The program of VSPS Meets Russia September Session consisted of two parts:
1. 20 – 24 September, Warsaw
During more than 30 hours of intense workshops, the participants will cover topics such as Investigative Journalism, Information Security, Propaganda and Fake News, Role of Media in Supporting Civil Society, Social Media Campaigns, Public Diplomacy.
2. 25 – 29 September, Raszyn – Falenty
The participants attended the conference “Sapere Aude: Freedom, democracy and globalization.” organized by the Association of Schools of Political Studies in cooperation with the VSPS. The conference gathered over 60 young European leaders for a series of workshops, lectures and discussions on the various aspects of the political, social and economic developments in Europe and beyond. The program focused on the fundamentals of democracy and civic engagement in the context of current national and international affairs.
The 2016/2017 VSPS Annual Program „Perceptions of migration in Visegrad Group and Germany” (VSPS Migration Program) was designed to influence and shape the public debate on migration in Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. During 4 sessions, the program took 16 young leaders to 4 cities in 3 countries, where they attended workshops, discussions and meetings covering different aspects of migration.
The goals of the VSPS Migration Program are threefold:
to deepen the participants’ knowledge on the issue of migration, develop their ability to identify and solve the complex challenges facing Central European societies, as well as enhance their capacity to shape and strengthen the democratic processes in their respective countries;
to share different perspectives on migration between Visegrad Group and Germany and discuss their root causes;
to influence the younger generation by conducting meetings with high school students and providing them with unbiased view of the migration crisis, as well as presenting them with a forum to express their own views, doubts and thoughts.
From February to June 2017, after attending preparatory sessions in Warsaw, Strasbourg and Cracow, the 16 main participants of the program – social activists, humanitarian workers, political analysts, human rights defenders and others from Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – held 37 classes titled “Critical Thinking on Migration Workshops” for over 800 students.
The aim of the workshops was to develop the students’ critical thinking by analyzing different aspects of the current refugee and migration crises. The participants learned the fundamental definitions necessary to understand the subject, find out sources of reliable data and practice distinguishing between facts and fake news. In addition, we wished to inspire students to mindfully approach public discussions of different topics.
The subjects covered during the Critical Thinking on Migration Workshops included:
Legal status of migrants and refugees, differences in obligation
of countries towards refugees and immigrants.
Why do people leave (push and pull factors)?
Why do countries accept migrants? Why do they not accept them?
How do migrants contribute to economy and society? What are the difficulties and risks in accepting migrants?