Green deal
31. March 2021

Interview with Lilla Bartuszek

Ms. Lilla Bartuszek is the Secretary-General of V4SDG – Visegrad for Sustainability. She is a Hungarian lawyer and an aspiring diplomat with fields of interest in public international law and European law, international relations and diplomacy. Her biggest aim is to work for EU and UN institutions one day, and in the meantime Ms. Bartuszek is proud to be part of several youth-led initiatives and organizations since she honestly believes that by showing examples we can motivate our generation to great lengths. 

1. In a nutshell, would you be able to explain what is the main mission of V4SDG and what projects are you currently working on?
Our non-profit initiative starts at an age when the question is not if sustainability should enjoy importance, but rather, how can it not be important? Young professionals from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia are cautious that the V4 group is losing the momentum of being integrated into the global mainstream of sustainability affairs. What is more, we believe that it is in the region’s potential to look beyond its borders for an even broader scope and deeper impact. Visegrad for Sustainability was created to become the organization that paves the way towards the achievement of the SDGs in the V4 and with a strong intention to extend its benefits to the CEE region and the neighborhood too. We practice an overarching, cross-sectoral principle and aim to become a melting pot of great young minds for meaningful match-making and sustainable results. To that end, V4SDG unites responsible actors from the public, private and civil sector in support of the Sustainable Development Goals via its four main projects:

LAB: The V4SDG LAB is the first expert community of the Visegrad Group built by dedicated young professionals – up to 40 years of age – with the aim of building a community that will be strong enough to be able to make an impact on the CEE region’s sustainability agendas.Our members span a wide range of stakeholder groups from the business, academic, governmental, and civil sectors. What connects them is their will to place their knowledge, expertise, experience and reputation at the service of strengthening partnership and collaboration for sustainability in the Visegrad countries.In this regard, members develop and implement mid-term sustainability-focused projects or research covering all V4 coun- tries that create visible outputs with measurable and communicable results under the umbrella of V4SDG. The Lab set to work in July 2020 and has currently 75 members.
EXCHANGE: V4SDG EXCHANGE is a project aiming to strengthen inter- sectoral dialogue and partnership between the sustainability actors across the V4 through in-person & online activities. Exchanging ideas and best practices will help us turn our region into a shaper of sustainable development for the benefit of the EU and beyond, taking a historical opportunity to reconstruct our relevance.
In September 2020, the first Budapest Sustainability Exchange took place, launching a cross-sectoral and cross-party reflection on green cooperation between the V4 countries. The two- day conference, the highlights of which you can discover with the help of this booklet, attracted hundreds of participants both in-person and virtually via Livestream, creating a unique, interactive forum for dialogue. The BSE marked the finale to a series of events across the four countries, giving sustainability actors and young leaders the opportunity to discuss how and why the V4 must steer towards sustainability.
Moreover, V4SDG Exchange also brings the sustainability discussion to the citizens of the region via online events, such as our Talk Series webinars discussing the interlinkages between the COVID-19 pandemic and sustainability as well as other online panel discussions highlighting topics being subjects of heated international discussions.
COMPASS: COMPASS helps to advance V4SDGs mission by shaping advocacy actions and developing sustainability solutions on the policy level. The project has coordinated the drafting of the Visegrad Sustainability Cooperation Minimum – a call for strengthened cooperation between the V4 countries on the achievement of the SDGs. Endorsed by a broad coalition of youth organizations, the document will serve as an advocacy tool presenting a new vision for the sustainability collaboration framework in the region. By mapping policy and governance environment in the V4 Compass addresses the key issues and proposes tangible solutions contributing to the evolution of the V4 Group as a regional sustainability actor
CONNECT: In line with our mission of strengthening partnerships for sustainability in the V4 countries and to facilitate the foundation of enhanced cooperation in the region we created the V4SDG CONNECT – the first online searchable network for experts and organizations working in the field of sustainability in the V4 and beyond. CONNECT aims to serve as the catalyst of sustainability in the Visegrád countries and in the wider CEE region by providing a platform where stakeholders from all sectors – academia, business, governmental and civil-working for sustainability can meet, share their knowledge, engage in lively discussions on current sustainability related issues and create joint projects.
V4SDG CONNECT goes beyond the features of a professional networking platform: it offers a direct platform to launch projects and a working space of joint initiatives with partner organizations. V4SDG CONNECT welcomes individuals, experts and organizations working in the field of sustainability within the Visegrád region.

2. V4 celebrated its 30th anniversary on 15th February. How would you describe the cooperation between the V4 countries when it comes to the sustainability related initiatives and what would be your vision for the near future?
On 15 February 1991, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia signed the Visegrad Declaration. For three decades, we nurtured our cooperation by helping each other to great successes, such as joining the European Union and NATO together.
This anniversary, the time is ripe to pick a new mission. One that allows us to grow our partnership beyond ad-hoc political cooperation. One that encompasses more than our governments, uniting the shapers of our region in their efforts. One that spans from local to global, offering opportunities for joint achievement. We need a purpose that lasts.
In seeking it, let the context guide us. The 21st century threatens with a climate disaster, the destruction of biodiversity, growing inequalities, social fragmentation and unsustainable economies. Those holding the answers to these challenges are the ones writing the future. We cannot afford to lag behind on this if we want to stay relevant and alive.
Our founders had foreseen this. In the declaration, they called for “increasing cooperation in the field of ecology”. It is something we never devoted enough attention to. In 2021, we can make a correction by leaping ahead. Let the V4 take on SUSTAINABILITY PARTNERSHIP as its permanent cooperation priority.
Placing sustainability at the heart of our group will give us a chance to make the V4 stronger. Around it, we can develop our already existing institutions, such as the Visegrad Fund, and create new ones to enhance coordination. Sustainability also offers a way to cultivate meaningful partnerships between our businesses, NGOs, professionals and young changemakers, taking bold steps with our governments for a green, fair and ambitious future. Sustainability is the key to a more cohesive V4.
With only a few months left of the Polish Presidency, this historic opportunity falls on the upcoming Hungarian administration. We call on it to take up the mantle of change and deliver the Visegrad Group into a new era of cooperation. As V4SDG we are always here to help.
This is about sustainability – of the world, and of the V4. This is the guarantee of our long-term unity.

3. Reduction of carbon footprint, electromobility, alternative fuels and smart cities are undoubtedly hot topics in connection with the EU Green Deal. Does V4SDG offer any assistance to companies, that would like to implement any of the below in their business models?
V4SDG’s main goal is to help accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the region by facilitating dialogue between various stakeholders in all sectors. When it comes specifically to companies and business models, our project, V4SDG LAB is currently conducting a research project on Corporate Social Responsibility- with a special focus on clean energy and circular economy – that aims directly at mapping the regional policies as well as providing recommendations to the business sector on how to implement the already existing tools of sustainability in their business policies.

4. How the behavioural economics can help tackle pressing environmental issues?
Applying behavioural economics has a key role in tackling the climate crisis and, more broadly, how we best respond to the challenges to implement the Agenda 2030. The reason why we have failed our environment also has roots in how we behave like human beings. Garrett Hardin introduced the term ‘the tragedy of commons’ that refers to the dilemma that humans act in self-interest and deploy the resources available. While the picture is not that black and white as Hardin described, we need to find ways to make society and its various actors act to reduce and mitigate our negative externalities. A part of this will happen through adopting new technological solutions that will be key for this fight and changing the way we think about our environments fundamentally. Behavioural economics thus provides great tools to incentivize the public and polluting sectors to act for a sustainable future. However, to date, relatively few governments apply these nudges in their public policies.

5. What is your opinion about positioning WOF EXPO in Central and Eastern Europe region?
V4SDG believes that achieving sustainability is the definitive challenge of the 21st century, but it is also a unique opportunity for the Visegrad Group and Central Eastern Europe to show leadership and weigh in on the right side of history. We should be more present at the tables where these decisions are made, and it is in our power and interest to change that. Increasing and organizing our contributions would not only benefit efforts for sustainability but serves as the key to establishing the relevance of our region and represents our best shot at closing the gap between us and the West, the North, even the most dynamic developing countries.
V4SDG is a youth-led non-profit initiative aimed at inspiring action and cooperation on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by activating key agents of change via a series of forums in the Visegrád Four states. V4SDG founders, four young professionals, realised that the region’s sustainability actors are not connected enough, especially across sectors, and are not well-integrated into the global mainstream of sustainability affairs. By addressing these two issues, V4SDG can make the development of sustainability solutions easier and create a pipeline for their global application.