Visegrád countries: No longer blind spots in the debate about EU

15/11/2017 | 12:30 - 16:00 | DGAP Berlin | Invitation only

Category:

The Visegrád countries (V4) – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – are emerging as an important entity within the EU, but could be a more active player with positive policy proposals for the entire bloc, experts from the EU, Germany, as well as Central European countries highlighted at a conference on Wednesday.

Key conference results: 

• Despite internal differences, Visegrád now in better shape than other regional EU groupings
• Germany sees Group as new strategic entity at EU level, beyond issue of migration
• German foreign ministry: Visegrád can be more active in offering positive EU policy proposals
• Tying EU cohesion funds to rule of law criteria is set to spark Berlin-Visegrád controversy

The Visegrád countries (V4) – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – are emerging as an important entity within the EU, but could be a more active player with positive policy proposals for the entire bloc, experts from the EU, Germany, as well as Central European countries highlighted at a conference on Wednesday. Hosted by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and chaired by DGAP Senior Fellow Milan Nič, the conference was attended by more than 120 participants from the fields of foreign policy and academia as well as the world of business.

Visegrád countries: No longer blind spots in the debate about EU

16.11.2017 | von DGAP e.V. | Länge: 1:22:13

“Visegrád has become a strategic entity that now indeed matters – also for Germany at EU level”, said Martin Kremer, head of the Central Europe division of the German Foreign Ministry. However, it was vital for the group to engage with the European Union beyond regional issues and the controversial topic of migration. Regional group’s interests and EU integration should go hand in hand, he stressed and called on the Visegrád countries to contribute to moving the European Union forward: “The EU needs new solutions.” So far, V4 had proposed only few concrete initiatives for the EU as a whole, and had a tendency to prioritize “format over substance”, Kremer said. The Visegrád Group could have been more involved in the debate on a closer integration of European defense policy and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) signed earlier this week.

Pál Peter Schmitt, Director General in the State Secretariat for EU Affairs in the Office of the Hungarian Prime Minister, stressed that the Visegrád Group was now one of the fastest growing economic regions in Europe. According to him, the most popular achievement of EU integration for Central Europeans is the Schengen area of free movement, which has to be preserved. Participants pointed out, however, that internal differences remained among the V4, for example, in regards to political values, issues such as the requirements of the rule of law – and its possible ties to EU cohesion funds –, and the different levels of EU integration. “We are in the midst of a battle of values”, said Kai-Olaf Lang of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). “We don’t push other Visegrád countries to come to joint positions,” said Pál Peter Schmitt. Visegrád’s strength is also flexibility.

Referring to Slovakia’s role as the sole Eurozone member among the V4, Vladimír Bilčík of the Research Centre of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, Bratislava, said the euro zone was at risk of becoming a “club in the middle of the club”. By contrast, the future Czech government under Prime Minister-designate Andrej Babiš was not likely to initiate accession procedures to the euro zone, even though the country already fulfilled the criteria, said Vít Dostál, Research Director of the Czech think tank AMO.

The conference agreed that more debate also at EU level was required to help other bloc members and stakeholders gain a better understanding of the Visegrád region and its internal dynamics.

dgap in the media
Most Read