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Czech News in English » Opinion » Czechs should stay part of Visegrad Group despite Orban

Czechs should stay part of Visegrad Group despite Orban

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Prague, Oct 3 (CTK) – The Czech Republic should stay part of the Visegrad Group (V4), Lukas Jelinek writes in daily Pravo on Monday, rejecting observers’ calls for leaving the V4 in reaction to the activities of the nationalist Viktor Orban culminating in a fresh Hungarian referendum that rejected refugee quotas.

The Hungarians clearly rejected the migrant quotas on Sunday, but the low turnout makes the result of the vote invalid.

Many Czech commentators recently said their country does not belong to the V4 group because it is different from the right-winger Orban’s Hungary, Poland of conservative Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Slovakia of Robert Fico’s populists, Jelinek writes.

But wild ideas for making this part of Europe an impregnable fortress connect the Czechs with their three postcommunist partners, irrespective of the more factual or “more Western” position on migration held by the Czech centre-left government of Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), Jelinek writes.

He quotes Czech President Milos Zeman as suggesting last week that economic migrants should be deported from Europe to uninhabited Greek islands and Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) as saying that refugee camps should be built in North Africa.

The V4 group is no short-term project that could be scrapped once the cooperation with the three other partners seems problematic. When Czechoslovak Vaclav Havel, Polish Lech Walesa and Hungarian Jozsef Antall met in 1991, they were well aware of the reasons of their alliance, which was not only the joint seeking of the EU and NATO memberships, Jelinek writes.

The above countries had a tough experience in the 20th century, especially from the communist period when they became part of the Eastern bloc, which resulted in similar moods, frustrations and problems. These countries are all located in the geopolitical space between Germany and Russia, which is rather problematic, Jelinek writes.

The V4 founders based their decision on the fact that the leading politicians of the countries know one another and share the wish to introduce democratic principles. However, there are pragmatic reasons for the existence of V4 as well. It may happen that the European crisis will result in the creation of regional blocs within the EU, Jelinek says, adding that 13 percent of the EU population lives in V4.

Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have been working for common defence and development of Central European transport infrastructure. The Visegrad Fund supporting culture and education is not negligible either, Jelinek writes.

He argues that if the V4 group fell apart, tension between Russia and Poland might further escalate and PM Orban might create closer relations with Vladimir Putin. Neither development would be good for the Czech Republic, Jelinek indicates.

A possible dispute between the eastern part of the EU and Germany would not be good for the country either, he says.

The role of a bridge between the old and the new members of the EU seems advantageous for the Czech Republic, Jelinek writes.

Leading politicians in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia but also the Czech Republic will change. If V4 were dissolved, would it be reestablished again later? he says.

When the isolationist Vaclav Klaus was Czech prime minister in 1992-98, the V4 was no priority of the country, but in was not abolished, Jelinek writes.

The V4 is flexible: it does not have a firm structure, the four member states cooperate in some spheres, in others they do not. The Czech foreign policy should be distinctive and dynamic, but the valuable heritage of Havel, Walesa and Antall can and should be preserved, Jelinek concludes.

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