Sunday

29th Jan 2023

Sarkozy warns Visegrad countries not to make a habit of pre-summit meetings

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has taken a swipe at Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, who last week met ahead of the EU summit to talk through their positions on the topic of the day.

Speaking after a meeting of EU leaders last week, Mr Sarkozy said "if they have to meet regularly before each council, that could raise questions."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Nicolas Sarkozy (l) regularly meets Angela Merkel ahead of EU summits (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

"That is not the case yet," he added.

To date, the four countries have met twice at level of head of state and government in Brussels - before a March meeting of EU leaders and before last week's summit.

In the spring, they discussed - and disagreed upon - the economic crisis and how it should be handled, while last week they discussed the two hot issues of the summit, a last-minute Czech demand for an exemption from part of the Lisbon Treaty and climate change negotiations.

The environment question was particularly sensitive, as Poland was heading a group of nine new member states who toughed it out on financial questions related to climate change talks, at one stage threatening to take a splinter negotiating group to international talks on the issue in Copenhagen next month.

The damaging split, played out in the media, only intensified the impression that Europe was talking up its green credentials without being willing to pay for them, even though a broadstroke deal was agreed on the second day of the meeting.

Double standards

A Polish diplomat said the Visegrad meeting was "purely about co-ordination. We have quite successful co-operation in the region, so why not use this to an advantage." He also noted that co-ordination of positions is "actively encouraged" to shorten the notoriously lengthy tours-de-table at EU meetings.

The four eastern and central European states, who all joined the EU in 2004, have been having get-togethers at national level since 1991, when the leaders of Poland, Hungary and the then Czechoslovakia met in the Hungarian town of Visegrad, to launch the club. The constellation became known as the Visegrad group and is institutionalised to the extent that each country has its turn at the Visegrad presidency.

Mr Sarkozy's comments have raised accusations of double-standards. "My natural instinct, if he was to forbid the meeting or criticise it, would be to ask why he was meeting with the German chancellor every time before the summit. It's exactly the same," said an EU diplomat.

Other groups also meet before summits, notably Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, who share a long history of co-operation, as well as the various political families in the EU.

Piotr Kaczynski, from the Centre for European Policy Studies think-tank in Brussels, said it was "criticism of the Polish position that is getting stronger and stronger in the EU."

Referring to "different standards," he suggested Mr Sarkozy may be "getting irritated that Germany and France alone cannot control things anymore and maybe it means shifting their policies."

Germany and France have long been considered the "motor" of the EU. Working in tandem, they can usually push through a lot of what they want. But their informal "directorate" has been challenged since 2004, when 10 mainly eastern European countries joined the EU.

The sheer difference in number of member states changed the internal dynamics of the EU, while new member states, who do not always share the views of Paris and Berlin, have become increasingly assertive at the negotiating table.

France and Germany to announce Greek rescue plan

France and Germany are set to pledge their solidarity with Greece on Thursday, in a sign to investors that the embattled Greek state will not be allowed to default on debt obligations.

Opinion

Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters

The ECHR ruled that Russia was in "effective control" of separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine from 11 May 2014. In doing so, the court has formally acknowledged the inter-state character of the conflict and Russia's culpability for human rights abuses.

Opinion

Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters

The ECHR ruled that Russia was in "effective control" of separatist regions of Eastern Ukraine from 11 May 2014. In doing so, the court has formally acknowledged the inter-state character of the conflict and Russia's culpability for human rights abuses.

Latest News

  1. Pressure mounts on EU to coordinate visas for Russian rights-defenders
  2. Dutch set to agree to US-led chip controls to China
  3. No record of Latvian MEP's 'official' Azerbaijan trip
  4. Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters
  5. Europe continues to finance Russia's war in Ukraine with lucrative fossil fuel trades
  6. Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'
  7. Red tape border logjam for EU's 1.3m 'frontier workers'
  8. Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  2. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  3. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  4. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  2. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  3. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  5. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  6. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us