Current Relevance and Future Role of the Visegrad Group
Since the establishment of the alliance, the Visegrad Group has been an influential part of Central Europe. Intending to join the West, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia became members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) and later the European Union (EU). Several challenges and prospects of the cooperation were raised during an online debate entitled “30 Years of the Visegrad Group” organized by the Institute for Politics and Society. The discussion was moderated by Adél Kovács.
Central Europe used to be a place lagging behind the West in 1991, as Rastislav Káčer, Ambassador of Slovakia to the Czech Republic, underlined. However, today, these countries shape the world’s decisions as EU and NATO members. Central Europe chose to join the Western culture of which we have always been inspired. Additionally, moving from a planned to a market economy was the most critical step during the transition in the 1990s, as Jozo Perić, Analyst from CapitalPanda, highlighted.
Ondřej Kovařík, a Member of Parliament from the Czech Republic, focused on the shift from traditional into more European cooperation. As Wojciech Przybylski, Editor in chief of the Visegrad Insight, addressed, the V4 is a European but predominantly an internal forum for managing common policies and building cohesion between partners.
Regarding the COVID-19 situation, Katalin Cseh, a Member of the European Parliament from Hungary, raised concern over different pandemic strategies in the Visegrad countries. Governments that rejected European cooperation turned inwards and chose a nationalistic attitude. Ms. Cseh and Mr. Przybylski recognized the joint effort the V4 made to transfer knowledge and coordinate the response to the pandemic together.
Ms. Cseh emphasized that there is great potential in the bloc. However, the illiberal ideologies of Hungary and Poland work against European values and integrity. Although the alliance is divided into two groups with different mindsets, internal clashes are effectively mitigated, as Mr. Przybylski affirmed.
Mr. Kovařík touched upon the increasing public awareness of the V4 across the EU. Ms. Cseh and Mr. Perić pointed out the importance of providing more information about the group to the public. On the other hand, Mr. Káčer held the V4 format overrated and interpreted it as a symbol of rebellion in Europe.
In the future outlook, Mr. Przybylski and Mr. Kovařík reiterated that there is no need to change the V4 collectively. Yet reforms should be done in the member countries individually. Ms. Cseh expressed hope of a potential change of wins in the upcoming Hungarian election next year, which could revitalize the cooperation. Since the member countries are small, they need international collaboration and good diplomacy, she added. Mr. Káčer attached great importance to more practicality, which would help citizens’ daily lives in the Visegrad countries. Every European state, including the V4, has its own unique competencies which should be endorsed, as Mr. Kovařík concluded.