Saturday

18th Nov 2017

Opinion

Visegrad members must stick together

  • The EU Council keeps getting bigger and bigger (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The European Union is no longer a club of a few French-speaking politicians who know each other well.

Nowadays, even the smallest informal meetings involve dozens of attendees including delegations and translators.

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The more the Council’s negotiations resemble a small parliament, the more important are the informal coalitions of states which share common interests and are willing to help each other.

The Visegrad Group (V4), a sort of central European Benelux, was established nearly 25 years ago with the aim of speeding up European integration in central Europe. It later became a coordination body within the Union itself.

The alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia has taken note of Parkinson’s law - that a "sufficiently large bureaucracy will create enough for work itself" - and has resisted the temptation to establish formal official structures.

Its readiness for action is fully dependent on the abilities of political leaders to reach agreement, which isn’t a weakness but rather a strength.

It has kept a strong democratic ethos and cannot be accused of Brussels elitism, nor of being isolated from the social and economic issues which shape people’s views of the EU.

This is why the V4, currently under the Czech presidency, must deal with questions of migration, energy security, physical and digital infrastructure, employment, and common defence from outside threats.

The Visegrad connection shows that cooperation is possible even among governments from different sides of the political spectrum, and between countries of different sizes.

Beyond the V4, in terms of the internal market, the Visegrad group shares a common attitude with Scandinavian countries.

Poland often represents us in the big league, when negotiating with Germany and France. Berlin and Vienna, especially, take the Visegrad’s joint positions very seriously.

The priorities of the Czech V4 presidency are: energy, including development of nuclear resources; common planning and acquisitions in defence and security; external relations, focusing on the instability in eastern Europe; illegal immigration, and the digital single market.

In 2016 the Visegrad Group will celebrate 25 years since its establishment. At the time of its inception in 1991, the world - especially the political map of Europe - looked very different.

But V4 members already had one thing in common: the need to strengthen mutual trust and solidarity.

Today, as the stability of Europe is threatened by developments in the south, east and west of the continent, this is more necessary than ever.

Tomas Prouza is the Czech state secretary for European affairs

Magazine

The rise and shine of Visegrad

The V4 countries - Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - has turned the EU's migration policy around. They now set their sights on reshaping the union.

Europe's looming dichotomy

Central European leaders are content to receive financial support from Brussels, but are unwilling to share their new-found wealth with migrants seeking a safe-haven in their countries

EU's eastern partnership needs revival

A week before a summit with EU eastern neighbours, Sweden and Poland's foreign ministers propose "a way ahead" for the relationship that is more focused on people's needs.

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