The Institute for Politics and Society in cooperation with the Visegrad Fund, Republikon Institute, Friedrich Naumann Stiftung and Project Polska held on 20th May 2018 a public debate on the topic of Multiple Challenges for the V4 in the Context of the EU. We had the honor to welcome in discussion Péter Balázs, Director of Center for European Neighborhood Studies, Maria Staszkiewicz, Director of Czech FinTech Association, Tomáš Púchly, Analyst from F. A. Hayek Foundation, and Adam Černý, Chairman of the Czech Syndicate of Journalists.
Jan Macháček, moderator of the debate and the Chairman of the Institute for Politics and Society, opened the program by metioning that the V4 Group is not institucionalized and it does not have any administrative aparatus neither, but it has its president – shifting every half a year from one member state. Poland and Hungary consider themselves as leaders of the V4 and saviers of traditional European values. However, there are a lots of things which countries of the V4 have in common.
Péter Balázs compared the Visegrad Group to a small dragon with four heads. Today, there is a big club – the EU – but the cohesion of the bigger club is much stronger than a cohesion of our private smaller club. Poland and Hungary are very close to each other and they are going to the direction which lead them away from the mainstream. The Czech Republic‘s position is very difficult to analyze because of the internal unstable situation. On contrary, Slovakia is very strongly for deepening European intergration and the Eurozone. According to Mr. Balázs, 25 years ago, it was wonderful to be Hungarian. Nowadays, he tries to avoid to confess his nationality. Current label of Hungary in the EU is not positive anymore. Of course, the migration bubble is nonsense, nobody wants to stay in Hungary. However, it is important to say that there was not any political agreement before the quotas system was installed by the European Commission. That is the reason why Hungary (and other Visegrad members) resist. Even though, there are already almost 2000 immigrants living in Hungary.
Maria Staszkiewicz pointed out that the whole the V4 project is dependent on the local governments and on the internal polical situation in every member state, because there are no official Visegrad‘s institutions – no administrative tools. Currently, governments in Poland and Hungary stress out their goals of modernization and digitalization. Inovations are promoted but there is a certain lack of the rule of law. Toxicity of Poland and Hungary comes in variations. Orbán proclaimed first the illiberal democracy, now he has changed for the vision of modern Christian democracy. 10 years ago, Kaczynski presented his idea of impossibilism. The main idea goes that legally elected government can not represent the needs of the public because there is a system of checks and balances which posssess an enormous obstacles to leading political representatives. Thus, these obstacles are removing step by step in today‘s Poland. Maria Staszkiewicz reminded that the goal of the V4 Group was always more about the group itself – how to work together and help each other based on the same historical experience.
Tomáš Púchly agreed that the V4 Group has a specific historical background. Thus, it is natural that the V4 countries tent to cooperate from time to time, but there are quite significant differences in their economic situation, preferences and goals. Slovakia‘s main economic partner is Germany. Slovakians are currently very pro-EU. Of course, Slovakian membership in the Eurozone makes its connection with Germany and the rest of the EU stronger and very tight. The V4 Group do not have a strong common voice in the EU. That is something we should work on. Mr. Púchly thinks the V4 members should cooperate on European level, because the EU is very fragmented, so the V4 can make a difference there. Clearly, the EU needs a broad reform, so, here comes the time for the V4 Group to not only criticize but to participate, be active, and to fix problems and create a new Union.
Adam Černý stressed out there Slovakian membership in the Eurozone never was a public political issue. The decision was made by politicians and people simply followed it. The V4 Group has all together around 60 million citizens, thus, it could be much stronger and louder dragon in the Union than it is right now. There was a point for creating the V4 Group at the very beginning, therefore, we should discuss a positive common vision of the project nowadays. Member states should work on creating a new strong positive vision for the future.
At the end of the discussion, Péter Balázs added that despite of all difficulties, the Visegrad Group is still there. It has two realistic dimension – within the V4 we can do a lots of things better, but it would deserve more structure and money. The second dimension – the cooperation with the EU.