Monday, 16 July 2018

Pehe: Prague should beware of ending up marginalised in EU

25 August 2017

Prague, Aug 24 (CTK) - The two-speed Europe project tends to split the Visegrad Four (V4) group, commentator Jiri Pehe wrote in Pravo on Thursday, adding that Slovakia might drift away from the V4 towards the EU's hard core, which would throw the Czech Republic under a stronger influence of Hungary and Poland.

The two-speed Europe scenario is becoming more and more probable and the Czechs and Slovaks, or the two successor states to the former Czechoslovakia, face the urgent question of whether to seek participation in the EU's hard core or prefer their membership of the V4 grouping, Pehe writes.

The question would not be so cardinal if Poland and Hungary, the remaining two V4 members, did not have growing problems in the EU, Pehe writes.

Like Poland and Hungary, the Czechs and Slovaks, too, disagree with Brussels on the refugee relocation quotas, but Budapest and Warsaw's conflicts with the EU have become far deeper than that, Pehe writes.

The discords, mainly over the observance of the rule of law, have intensified so much that almost no one expects Hungary and Poland to join the hard EU core. As a result, Bratislava and Prague's continuing narrow cooperation with them within the V4 seems to be the whole group's ticket to the margin of Europe, Pehe writes.

Slovakia was the first to react recently. Since the EU's hard core is to be formed around the euro zone, Bratislava does not want to lose the advantage it has as a euro zone member, the only among the V4 countries, Pehe writes.

A few days ago, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico clearly said Slovakia wants to be in the EU's hard integration core. He added that Slovakia prefers cooperation with France and Germany, even at the cost of the V4, Pehe writes.

The Czech Republic, for its part, wants to seek the status of an observer at the summits of the euro zone countries' finance ministers. This should be a symbolic gesture showing that Prague wants to be a part of the hard integration core, Pehe writes.

The question is whether this ambition is too meagre and too belated, he writes.

Commenting on the Czech effort, businessman Michal Horacek, one of the candidates to run for Czech president in January, said it is a plan in which the Czechs are "neither in nor out the game: as it corresponds to the Czech political thinking, they seek the status of a kibitzer."

Unfortunately, however, the Czechs cannot seek anything more now, because the domestic scene fails to agree on the adoption of the euro. Moreover, numerous Eurosceptics among Czech politicians assert that nothing horrible would happen if the Czech Republic did not join the EU's hard core, Pehe writes.

All this would be of secondary importance if the Czechs were able to join the hard core after reaching domestic agreement on the step. However, the opposite threatens to happen. If Slovakia drifts away from the V4, the Czechs will fall under even a stronger influence of Poland and Hungary, Pehe writes.

The Czech political parties that do not wish Prague to end up on the EU periphery have still the time to take up this serious issue until the October 20-21 general election, Pehe writes.

Really, a lot is at stake, he adds.

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