Thursday, 21 September 2017

HN: Approach to post-Brexit Europe to be test of V4's viability

ČTK |
19 June 2017

Prague, June 16 (CTK) - The Visegrad Four (V4) group has been rather ineffective due to lacking coordination so far, and its approach to the further development of the EU will be a key test to show whether the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have anything in common, Adam Cerny writes in Hospodarske noviny (HN) Friday.

Cooperation between the V4 members has been only symbolical since the group's establishment in the early 1990s. The four countries' geographical closeness is helpful in many respects but it cannot automatically secure their unity, Cerny writes.

This is especially striking now that Bratislava, Budapest, Prague and Warsaw are deciding on how to approach the EU's post-Brexit development determined by a progressing integration of the euro zone, in which the political and economic weight of the whole EU will concentrate, Cerny writes.

The V4's strongest joint interest was evident before all four members achieved their goal to enter NATO and the EU.

However, the close of their EU accession talks in Copenhagen already showed a phenomenon that later appeared repeatedly and could not go unnoticed. The V4 succeeded in defending a joint position (in Copenhagen, the size of EU subsidies was at stake) until one of the foursome abandoned it and nodded to a compromise offer, Cerny writes.

Experienced negotiators knew how to make use of such a scenario, he writes.

The lack of coordination has been really huge, preventing the V4 from gaining respect in the EU. Previously, this failure was not so striking because, for example, the euro zone crisis primarily afflicted the euro zone, of which Slovakia is a member, but not the rest of the V4, Cerny writes.

Doubts about the V4's coherence openly emerged within the debate on how to react to the wave of migrants heading for Europe via the Balkans.

Like in the previous cases, the V4's joint resistance to the EU's refugee relocation quotas was not consistent. Last year, the planned quotas were criticised by the whole V4, but Poland finally did not vote against them, and the approved quotas were challenged at the European Court of Justice by two V4 members only - Hungary and Slovakia, Cerny writes.

Observers concluded that the V4 is capable of neither uniting on joint positions, except for negative ones, nor making alternative proposals, let alone gaining support for them in the EU. This proves the V4's weak effectiveness in a situation where it is no secret that some other EU countries, too, feel doubts about the quota system, Cerny writes.

Furthermore, differing reactions of V4 members and their uncoordinated approach weaken the trustworthiness of their criticism of the quotas, he adds.

The V4 is incapable of reaching consensus because its members markedly differ from each other. In Poland, the governing party is the Law and Justice headed by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the country's unofficial leader promoting a pro-national and conservative programme including a rigid approach to women's right to decide on their pregnancy, Cerny writes.

A nationalist-conservative agenda verging on populism, however, contains some other aspects that may have an explosive potential, Cerny continues.

Most recently, calls for the abolition of Prague's post-war Benes Decrees, based on which all ethnic Germans and Hungarians were stripped of Czechoslovak citizenship and transferred from the country, were heard from Hungary. It turned out that the post-war past may influence the present developments in quite an unexpected way, Cerny writes.

A crucial test to show whether the V4 countries have anything in common will be their approach to the further development of the EU. After the massive election victory of Emmanuel Macron and the expected re-election of Angela Merkel in Germany, the Berlin-Paris tandem is most likely to restore its weight and react to Brexit by trying to stabilise and more integrate the euro zone, of which Slovakia is a member, Cerny writes.

The question of how to join the EU core has to be pondered mainly by Budapest, Prague and Warsaw. For the time being, they only share the false idea that their position would strengthen if the role of national states were strengthened, Cerny writes.

However, it is the euro zone where decisions on the EU's further development are made, he concludes.

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