Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

European Policies of the Visegrad Countries

Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

European Policies of the Visegrad Countries

Article excerpt

Abstract:

The growing importance of the Visegrad Group within the EU arena gives Central European states a real opportunity to take part in shaping the future of the continent. So far, the V4 has been active mostly on issues concerning cohesion or EU neighborhood policies, and there has not been much room for strategic thinking about the future of the EU. The Visegrad states prefer to tackle the dilemmas of EU institutional reform alone, or in ad hoc coalitions with other states. This paper demonstrates that even though there are important discrepancies between V4 members regarding their EU policies, there is still a significant list of priorities shared by all V4 states - e.g. support for community method, applicability of the same rules for all member states, openness of the eurozone reform process to non-eurozone members, and strengthening of the single market. This set of priorities, however: does not constitute any common V4 vision of the post-crisis EU. The paper argues that the Visegrad Group can provide a stable, proven-in-practice coalition for the turbulent times of the crisis. Unfortunately, the uncertain course of events in the markets does not help leaders to abandon the perspective of a single electoral term. This seems to be a major obstacle to articulating active and courageous visions. Nevertheless, in order to retain its growing international position, the V4 must try to develop a common stance on the future shape of the EU.

In recent years, the Visegrad Group [V4] - consisting of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - has become one of the most dynamic coalitions in the EU. The V4 demonstrated its influence on the EU's decision making process when it formed the basis of the "Friends of Cohesion" coalition, which secured a substantial sum of money for the poorer EU regions during negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020. Other joint projects of the V4 will be finalized within the coming years. These four former communist states (among others] are striving to create a common regional energy market, prepare the V4 Battle Group, and lobby for an active EU policy towards the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership states. In contrast to the growing cooperative activity in these areas, however, the governments of V4 countries clearly have differing attitudes towards the ongoing institutional changes within the EU and the eurozone. This paper aims to ascertain what kind of EU each of the V4 states wants to build, and what position they hope to occupy within it. Another goal of this paper is to take a closer look at how each of the V4 states is formulating its response to the economic and financial crisis of the EU. Lastly, this paper will try to answer the question of what these plans mean for the future of the V4.

The list of common goals compiled during the historical Visegrad summit in 1991 focused on four main issues: the creation of democratic states; integration within European political, economic and security structures; the disintegration of the Soviet sphere of influence in Central Europe; and the internal cohesion of the region. Essentially, apart from the last one, all of these goals where achieved by 2004 when all V4 members joined the EU. However, if the objective "full involvement in the European political and economic system, as well as the system of security and legislation" is taken literally, we cannot be so confident that this task has been completed. The diversity of approaches among V4 states with respect to recent forms of integration has been clearly visible in recent years. Slovakia joined the eurozone in 2009 while Hungary was plunging into a debt crisis; two years later (in 2011 ], both the Czech Republic and Hungary (together with Sweden and the UK] opted out of the Euro Plus Pact; and in 2012, the Czech Republic refused to sign the fiscal compact (along with the UK], contrary to the decision of the other V4 members. What is behind these decisions? …

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