Tuesday

24th Oct 2017

Eastern Europe warns against EU 'disintegration'

  • Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Polish PM Beata Szydlo, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, and their Slovak counterpart Robert Fico arrive to the press conference (Photo: Polish prime minister's office)

Prime ministers of four central European countries warned against the "disintegration" of the EU a day after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker outlined possible scenarios for the future of the bloc, including a multi-speed Europe.

"Any form of enhanced cooperation should be open to every member state and should strictly avoid any kind of disintegration of the single market, the [passport-free] Schengen area and the European Union itself," leaders of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia said in a joint statement on Thursday (2 March).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The Visegrad prime ministers and German chancellor Merkel: on collision course? (Photo: P. Tracz/KPRM)

Ahead of a summit in Rome at the end of the month on Europe's future, the Visegrad Group acknowledged that a "necessary flexibility" in integration could be achieved through enhanced cooperation under the current treaties, but insisted on the need for unity as a principle for cooperation between member states

Eastern member states were unnerved by the possibility that Juncker's proposals, and a declaration to be adopted in Rome, could entrench existing divisions and see them permanently fall behind.

At a joint press conference in Warsaw, Poland's prime minister Beata Szydlo said changes in the EU should not lead to "permanent cracks".

"We will not agree to division within the EU, because that leads directly to disintegration," she said.

The statement also said any development in the eurozone should be open to all and called for deeper defence cooperation.

But that does not mean the Visegrad Four want to move ahead with integration any faster.

The prime ministers again reiterated that a "more significant and definite role" should be given to national parliaments to "enhance legitimacy of the EU decision-making process".

Szydlo called on European Council chief Donald Tusk, whose re-election Szydlo's government does not support, to ensure that EU reforms are agreed before the Rome summit on 25 March.

At the Rome summit, leaders are expected to outline a common vision for the future of the EU after the UK leaves the bloc.

Slovak prime minister Robert Fico said preparations for the summit were "lamentable".

"It may happen that [the Rome statement] will again not be a vision for the future of Europe, but a collection of individual, national interests, which cannot help anyone today, but only do harm," Fico said at the news conference.

Founders would move ahead

Among the five proposals outlined by Juncker as a preparation for Rome, one called for a multi-speed Europe, in which those countries that want to have a closer and deeper cooperation could move on, while others can pick and chose if they want to join.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Francois Hollande, Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, and Maltese PM Joseph Muscat, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, all recently spoke out in favour of a multi-speed Europe.

That could pit the Visegrad countries, which have been reluctant to participate in the relocation of asylum seekers in Europe, and some founding countries against each other in Rome over whether a multi-speed Europe is the way to go.

Visegrad countries receive substantial EU funding to help develop their poorer regions, but the feeling that they were "second class" EU countries has lingered in political discourse ever since they joined the bloc in 2004.

Poland and Hungary have been criticised over rule of law issues, in what the two governments see as Western lecturing.

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban has argued that EU funding to the east benefits Western companies as well.

Recently, a scandal over different food quality in the east and west also become a sensitive political issue.

Food inequality

At their Warsaw meeting the four prime ministers came out strongly against the "double standards" in food quality, because some firms used cheaper ingredients in food stuff sold in central and eastern Europe than in the west.

The prime ministers urged the European Commission and Parliament to act.

Slovak PM Fico said the different standards in food quality are "unacceptable", and send a "dangerous political message".

Maltese PM hails pope, calls for multispeed EU

Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat said that Pope Francis has "the skills and vision" to inspire the EU and that some EU countries should integrate more to be able to act.

Hollande: EU will be multi-speed or will 'explode'

The French president, who is hosting a meeting with the German, Italian and Spanish leaders, says that EU countries must be able to integrate further on economy, defence or research and calls for a eurozone budget.

Catalan MPs weigh independence declaration

A crucial week is ahead in Catalonia as its leaders decide whether to declare independence - an illegal move according to the Spanish government – or yield to pressure from Madrid.

News in Brief

  1. May: EU member states will not lose out with Brexit
  2. Slovakia pledges to be 'pro-European' oasis in region
  3. Report: Catalan leader to address Spanish senate
  4. Fiat-Chrysler 'obstructed justice' reports Le Monde
  5. EU presidency 'confident' on posted workers agreement
  6. Young conservatives boot out Erdogan's party
  7. Tsipras urged to let refugees go before winter sets in
  8. Thousands demand justice in Malta

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Martens CentreI Say Europe, You Say...? Interview With EU Commission VP Jyrki Katainen
  2. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  4. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  5. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  6. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  7. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  10. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  11. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  12. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe

Latest News

  1. EU commission denies May 'begged for help' comments
  2. Interpol needs EU help to stop abuse
  3. Glyphosate protesters hold meeting with Commission
  4. Catalan MPs weigh independence declaration
  5. Russia used Interpol 'loophole' against EU activist
  6. Italian regions demand autonomy from Rome
  7. Populist victory puts Czech EU policy in doubt
  8. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals