2. V4: Diverging Visions for Europe
BSSB.BE progressives-zentrum.org 13.06.2018
Balkans Danube Ex-USSR
* EU and Visegrad Group at the Midterm of Legislative Period 2014 – 2019
The cooperation within the V4 is not dependent on politics in ideological sense of it. It is strategic, of which priorities are temporary and dictated not by the political principles, but by the needs of the moments. and Hungary, whereby the bond between the two countries means standing up for one another in case the EU attempts to introduce any sanctions against one of them.
It is an extremely powerful aspect of the cooperation, as with the need for unanimity required in case of those EU penitentiary procedures, presupposed veto of one practically excludes any possibility for the EU to take consolidated action.
Coming back to the issue of the content, the body of the documents would suggest that in the past two and half years (that are in the scope of this paper), the Visegrad cooperation was devoted mainly to the matters of:
- defense 7;
- neighbourhood and enlargement policies;
- issues of innovation, reindustrialisation and cohesion. This is the picture that emerges from looking at the index of the topics signalled by the diverse leaders’ summits’ declarations, and especially the very instructive text of the Joint Statement of the Visegrád Group Countries from Brussels from 17th December 2015 8.
That separate communication was issued on the margins of the European Council and while it endorses the focus of the debate on the future of Europe as extremely neceVssary, it points to a somewhat different understanding of the challenges and the ways to face them than what the conclusions of the Council, itself taking place then, would indicate.
To offer two telling examples:
- first, the Joint Statement indicates the fear that the way the EU plans to address the issue of intensified migration may pose a threat to Schengen and hence the policy agenda should focus much more on tightening of the external borders.
- And second, whilst the heads of government seem to fully back the drive towards an Energy Union and call for prompt implementation, they see it first and foremost as a matter of national security.
Nowhere in two paragraphs that deal with the issue do they refer to the overall EU policy guidelines, which would include parameters of sustainability, change of production-consumption models or environmental policy etc. Instead, they rather speak about reduction of energy dependency and diversification of sources, suppliers and routes 9 .
To that end, it is legitimate to say that the optics of the V4 in general terms are not focused on what belonging to the Community would mean or what the Future of the European Union as a whole should be about.
That was the approach at first, which then evolved making the V4 opt for more self-centered strategic approaches based on seeking to firstly safeguard the fulfillment of their own needs.
While it may just be stipulated now and then across the different statements, it becomes quite apparent when reading, for instance, the Joint Statement of the prime ministers of the Visegrád Group Countries on the 25th V4 Anniversary signed in Prague and dated on 15th February 2016 10.
It states that: Recent developments – whose common denominator is the challenging of peace, security and prosperity of EU citizens – demand a joint response from all European allies. We draw the lessons from our own experience of how dangerous weakening of European unity may be. We want European integration to help its member states to achieve their objectives. This is why we actively work to keep the European Union dynamic and flexible based on its traditional quality of “unity in diversity”.
- That is how the V4 countries understand the deepening of the European integration – which makes them supporters of an idea closed to the historical concept of the Union of Nations/States. Within such a framework they see their regional cooperation as vital, claiming: We want the European Union to be strong and a stronger European Union needs a strong Visegrád Group.
- The Debate on the Future of Europe and the Multiple Clashes Following what has been described in the previous section, it would seem that the intensity of the V4 cooperation depends on two factors: the communality of interests of the participating countries in the given moment and the commitment of the leaders to make it work.
To that end, the agenda is frequently modified to serve the needs of the moments and remains two-fold, with the first layer being the cohered position on the political issues, and the second providing leaders with the comfort of mutual support when it comes to the EU. At this stage, they see the Union as being on the crossroads and they would see that the solution is pursuing a kind of Europe of strong nations (states), where first and foremost the particular interests of the members would be catered to.
The V4 leaders see the Union as being on the crossroads and they would see that the solution is pursuing a kind of Europe of strong nations (states). 10 See: The Visegrad Group official website, http://www.visegradgroup.eu/ calendar/2016/joint-statement-of-the This is, in fact, key to understanding the positioning of the Visegrad Group vis-à-vis the European Union and what kind of changes (policy proposals) they would eventually support in the context of the ongoing debate on the Future of Europe.
While it would be tempting to look at diverse issues, the scope of the paper requires a strict selection – which following the priorities mentioned especially in the diverse leaders’ declarations would incorporate the questions of: migration, environment, social Europe, democracy and legislative appointments. The article will further provide a general overview of the V4 positions on them (or when appropriate V2, V3 stands) and what these countries’ approach has meant so far in the larger context of the EU decision-making processes.
- 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