First some background. When an informal alliance of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary came into being in 1991 it was called the Visegrad Triangle, but after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 it was changed to the Visegrád Group or Visegrád 4. The group is named after the town in Hungary which was the meeting place of the Bohemian, Polish, and Hungarians rulers in 1335. Charles I of Hungary, Casimir III of Poland, and the Bohemian king, John of Luxembourg, agreed to create new commercial routes to bypass Vienna and obtain easier access to other European markets. The Visegrád 4 has a rotating presidency that changes each year on July 1. Last year it was Hungary, this year it is Slovakia.
Today Hungary played host to the prime ministers of the Visegrád countries and Viktor Orbán delivered the welcoming speech. Some of his statements are easy enough to interpret. He dwelt on the political similarities of these countries in the sense that all their governments are considered to be right of center. Of course, there are huge differences in the actual ideologies and practices of these countries, with the Hungarian government farthest to the right. It is also relatively easy to figure out what Orbán referred to when he talked about the danger of a "money curtain" that could fall between the Central European countries and the west. However, it is a bit more puzzling what he meant by the following sentence: "because of the bilateral conflicts one cannot expect Hungary to be the motor of cooperation" of the Visegrád 4. I might mention here that Hungary seems to be expanding her horizons beyond the Visegrád 4 in building strong ties with Romania and the Balkan countries, and therefore one can imagine that Hungary finds the Visegrád 4 to be of lesser importance.
In a joint press conference ater the meeting, when Orbán was asked about the close cooperation of the four countries, economically, politically, and in foreign policy questions, he claimed that "if we want to cooperate, we need the proper amount of humility." Humility is not exactly the strong suit of either Viktor Orbán or Hungary's foreign policy. Not surprisingly, he added that the Hungarian government will keep in mind Hungary's national interest.
Among other things Hungary's rocky relations with the IMF came up and on this subject there were serious differences of opinion. The Czech prime minister, Petr Nečas, said that a stable budget situation in the member countries is of great importance because of the interdependence of the member countries. It was a clear allusion to what happened yesterday to the Hungarian forint, which also had negative repercussions in the Czech Republic and in Poland. Nečas said that the prime ministers talked about cooperation but almost nothing was achieved in practice.
Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister, was more understanding about the IMF fiasco. He emphasized that the Hungarian government needs the trust of the Visegrád 4 and the member countries "shouldn't lecture each other."
A side show was the first bilateral talks between Iveta Radičová, the new Slovak prime minister, and Viktor Orbán. Although Hungarian reports claimed that during the morning the two tried to avoid each other, their meeting in the afternoon seemed to have gone well. My impression is that it was Orbán who retreated, and therefore it was not surprising that it was only Radičová who gave a press conference after the meeting. After all, Orbán would have had to admit that he gave in on the issue of reviving the Slovak-Hungarian joint commissions that would work out an acceptable compromise on the citizenship question and other outstanding issues. They agreed that they are not going to send messages to each other across the Danube, but they will personally meet and discuss issues of joint interest. Apparently they also agreed to cooperate on developing the north-south infrastructure that would make movement between the two countries easier.
As opposed to the rather bland description of Radičová's press conference by the Hungarian news agency (MTI), Origo was more explicit and more revealing. The paper quotes Radičová as saying that if Hungary doesn't take into consideration the Slovak objections to the Hungarian citizenship question and it doesn't change the law before January 1, Slovakia will take steps to ensure that the Hungarian law will not be applicable in Slovakia. According to Radičová there are acceptable solutions to the citizenship question. "Mr. Orbán is as familiar with the alternative solution as we are with the current Hungarian law." If the Hungarians don't change the citizenship law Radičová will bring the Slovak alternative solution to a vote in parliament; it would preclude acceptance of Hungarian citizenship in Slovakia.
Yet the meeting had its results because Orbán did promise to take a look at the outstanding issues through a joint commission and more or less accepted an invitation to Slovakia for the commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary of the establishment of the Visegrád 4.
Now we will see how the negotiating partners will fare in discussions of the issues that bother Slovakia. In the past there was not much improvement when the two sides got together to discuss nitty-gritty issues. But let's be optimistic.