1.V4: Diverging Visions for Europe
BSSB.BE progressives-zentrum.org 07.06.2018
Balkans Danube Ex-USSR
* EU and Visegrad Group at the Midterm of Legislative Period 2014 – 2019
The ambition of this paper is to analyse the relationship between the European Union as a whole and the network of the four member states from Central and Eastern Europe, which are known as “Visegrad” or “V4” Group.
The underpinning question here is embedded in the debate about the future of the European Union, namely in how far evidently divergent ideas coming respectively from “Brussels” and from within the region could be cohered.
More specifically, this article seeks to find out in how far the EU can rely on having V4 countries’ collective commitment to both safeguarding its fundamental values and designing policies, which could ensure a better, fairer and more prosperous future for everyone across the continent. In order to provide an answer, it is necessary to apply a somewhat experimental methodology.
Whilst the EU is a community, of which objectives and operations are regulated by, among others, the respective Treaties – the V4 reflects the efforts of the countries of the Central European region to work together in a number of fields of common interest within the all-European integration 1 .
- As such it is not an official structure, or even an EU’s sub-group, which would have a prerogative to speak together internationally or devise any specific legally binding agenda, towards which the EU could or would have to have a specific strategy.
- This means that a formal relationship, understood in contractual terms, cannot be assessed. Instead however, it is possible to evaluate a number of political situations that were created in the past two and a half years by one or more of the V4 countries (while referring to the Visegrad umbrella) and consequently the impact that these had on the EU policy.
- This is the reason why the paper will focus on selected case studies for drawing more general conclusions. Indeed, the resonance of the diverse individual or collective acts by the V4 countries has been reaching an extent by which they have started animating European public opinion. That has been happening especially around the summits. 1 See: The Visegrad Group official website, http://www.visegradgroup.eu/about (accessed on 22.10.2017)
- With the EU still at the crossroads and itself still uncertain about ways in which divided community can be brought together, it is of a great relevance to try to foretell what can be expected from four states when it eventually comes to deciding upon a common vision for the future.
While they are located at the geographical centre, two of them particularly show a tendency to exempt themselves from the mainstream, to wave a threat vetoing and to seek seclusion at the peripheries of EU politics. The impact of that is bound to go beyond the domestic level. It will affect the key decisions ahead: such as the ones regarding Social Europe, Multiannual Financial Framework or institutional reform. The way they will play will remain meaningful by the next European Elections of 2019 that are key in providing the pro-EU reformers with the legitimacy needed to pursue the dream of the Union for the times to come.
The Principle Approach of the Visegrad Group Towards the European Integration It has been twenty-six years since the renewed Visegrad Group was established. By that time, a quarter of a century ago, when Lech Wałęsa, Václav Havel and József Antall sat around the same table reviving the somewhat nostalgic motion of the Visegrad Congress 1335, the countries that they represented were still undergoing fundamental changes of their systems 2.
Hence the unifying agenda was one of four pillars, which included: elimination of remnants of the communist bloc; desire to overcome historic animosities; conviction that jointly it will be easier to accomplish greater goals – such as joining the EU (and NATO); and finally, proximity of experiences that would create a sense of intellectual-political community among the leaders 3. In other words, the initial motivation was: commitment to democracy, peace, European integration and regional cooperation, all four of which reflect the founding pillars of the European Communities.
Since the revival, the intensity of connection within the Visegrad Group seems to have depended mostly on two factors.
- The first relates to the state of affairs that would make such a regional alliance pertinent. This also explains why after the initial momentum connected with the establishment, there was a certain decline of the cooperation – which then picked up again by the end of the 1990s, when the negotiations ahead of the ‘great enlargement of 2004’ were entering into their decisive phase.
- The second factor has to do with the question of leadership. For some of the heads of state, the Visegrad Group has been more important than for others. And that is what can explain the prominence of the Visegrad group – the countries engaged in it over almost three decades could be presented through a graph of a sinusoid. It is evident that its recent peak has been the last three to five years, which coincides respectively with the electoral victories of Victor Orbán’s Fidesz in Hungary and Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice in Poland. Consequently, this is also why so many commentators wonder in how far the result of the recent parliamentary elections in Czech Republic can provide a further boost to it.
The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: progressives-zentrum.org