The collapse of the united front of the Visegrád 4 in Bratislava

The Hungarian media hasn’t paid much attention to Viktor Orbán’s Friday morning interview on Magyar Rádió, which was aired on September 16 around 8:00 a.m. but was recorded the evening before. In it, the prime minster talked a great deal about the common agenda of the Visegrád 4 countries, on which their representatives were working furiously, even overnight. He proudly announced that while “the bureaucrats in Brussels” will most likely not be able to produce a document at the end of their negotiations in Bratislava, the Visegrád 4 will present a common set of proposals. As he said, “this is an important moment in the history of the Visegrád 4.” He added that “the Visegrád 4 are in perfect agreement on these questions.”

So, let’s see the demands of this joint statement, which Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło presented to the leaders of EU27. Its most important “ultimatum,” as some journalists called it, was “the strengthening of the role of national parliaments underlining respect for the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.” The Visegrád 4 accused Germany and France of making key decisions alone and disregarding the opinions of the eastern European states. “European integration is a common project and all negotiations should therefore be inclusive and open to all member states.” They demanded that “efforts should be channeled to fully implement the already undertaken commitments aiming at strengthening security in the Schengen area as well as the protection of EU’s external borders.” Linked to the security issue was the question of migration, which is considered to be the key issue for the group. The solution of the Visegrád 4 to the problem of the millions of migrants is what they call “flexible solidarity,” “a concept [which would] enable Member States to decide on specific forms of contribution taking into account their experience and potential. Furthermore any distribution mechanism should be voluntary.”

If we take a look at “The Bratislava Declaration,” we can safely assume that very few of these demands were discussed or even considered. The only exception is that the Bratislava road map includes “full control of our external borders…. Before the end of the year, full capacity for rapid reaction of the European Border and Coast Guard.” The goal of the Bratislava summit was to demonstrate unity, not to argue endlessly about the Visegrád 4’s grievances. The European Union is facing difficult challenges for which the member states must find common solutions. Donald Tusk made it crystal clear to Beata Szydło that this is not the time for a public debate of these issues. He even visited Budapest ahead of the summit to try to convince Viktor Orbán to let sleeping dogs lie. It seems that Tusk failed to restrain Orbán from open criticism, although in his interview on Magyar Rádió the prime minister did say that “in the name of fairness there is improvement on this issue,” adding that Tusk is one of the people in Brussels who places “defense” as the top priority. Of course, he credited himself for the evolving change in thinking on the issue.

If Orbán found the joint document of the Visegrád 4 so significant, why didn’t he complain that the summit passed over most of the demands outlined in it? Why did he object instead merely to the European Union’s immigration policies? On this issue “The Bratislava Declaration” said only that “work to be continued to broaden EU consensus in terms of long term migration policy, including on how to apply the principles of responsibility and solidarity in the future.”

First of all, knowing Viktor Orbán, who cannot imagine life without dissent, discord, and constant battling about one thing or the other, we could expect that he, unlike his comrades in arms in the Visegrád 4, would not come out of the meeting smiling and telling the world how happy he is with the outcome. He would have to complain about something. The most obvious target was immigration, or rather sharing the burden of the newly arrived asylum seekers. He could not return home and tell the Hungarian people that all’s well with the European Union and that from here on the remaining 27 member states will try to solve their problems together. After all, the Hungarian referendum on the refugees will be held on October 2, a referendum that he deems of vital importance to his political career. So, the choice of his complaint was a given.

But, in addition to immigration policy, he could have complained that the summit ignored one of his demands: strengthening the nation states at the expense of the center. Why didn’t he? Because, as far as I can see, he lost the support of his allies: Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. They joined the rest and declared the Bratislava summit a success. Even Beata Szydło realized that in the package presented to the members there were substantial incentives to stand by the others.

The roses were not enough

The roses were not enough

From the very beginning dissension was noticeable among the four countries. Poland and Hungary were the most vocal critics of Brussels. Slovakia and the Czech Republic wanted closer relations with Germany. Of course, it is not at all to Hungary’s advantage to have a pro-government media empire that revels in anti-Merkel rhetoric, but Orbán’s political moves are not always rational. While Orbán was advocating a counter-revolution against the existing order in Europe, Ivan Korčok, the Slovak undersecretary for European Affairs, talked to Politico about “a deeper reflection process, [fearing] trenches between West and East.” Moreover, he said that “migration is a phenomenon we have to see with a long term view,” which to my mind means a realization that migration will be part of the lives of the people of the EU, from which there is no escape for individual states.

Even between Poland and Hungary, despite their close ideological ties, there is the troubling issue of Russia. Poland, fearing Russia, supports a permanent NATO force in the region while Orbán would like to see the end of EU sanctions against Russia. The Poles also don’t approve of his cozy relations with Vladimir Putin.

These four countries, in spite of their geographical proximity, are different in many ways and have different national interests. As Korčok said of the upcoming summit, “I don’t think we can surge forward together.” Well, they didn’t.

It seems that Orbán’s revitalization of the Visegrád 4 pretty well collapsed in Bratislava. This diplomatic defeat should trouble him a lot more than the European Union’s immigration policy, over which he has no control. For the sake of winning a useless referendum for domestic political purposes he might have to give up his dream of being the leader of the East European countries and ultimately a major player on the European stage.

September 17, 2016
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PALIKA
Guest

But it seems they have agreed to veto any Brexit fantasy of a deal not involving freedom of movement of labour. Very positive, if correctly reported.

I heard a discussion between a number of Brits on R4 BBC on how to unravel the membership of EU. I will listen again because it is very complicated. This is all very unpleasant. Some of us will never accept it.

e-2016
Guest

The Polish and Hungarian nations are again hostages of selfish lying regimes.

Guest

The Polish and Hungarian nations are again hostages and victims of their own greedy, selfish and corrupt leaders, who are incapable of co-operating for the good of their country.

dos929
Guest
I believe that we all can agree on the definition of “psychopath”. There is the formal one: “a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behaviour” and an informal one: “an unstable and aggressive person”. Furthermore, I also believe that based on Orban’s behaviour during his political career the above definitions are a perfect fit. I, for one, also believe that all Orban’s comrades in arms in the ‘V4’ are similarly aware of these facts (not opinions, facts…). And one can speculate what may be the result of Orban’s more and more frequent failure, but one thing is for sure; he will come up an even more bizarre idea to deflect the fiasco created on his own. It may be not a far-fetched thought that some kind of provocation will take place before the 2nd of October referendum that will swing the public mood even more to his way of thinking about the refugee crisis. And let me express my complete dismay about the official communiqués that speak of ‘migrants’ that became a dirty word in the EU and especially in Hungary. These unfortunate people are refugees and not ‘migrants’. Of course there are potential terrorists… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Dictators are more often than not psychos, hence the excesses they are prepared to go to and their total lack of morals or scruples. Orban fits the bill perfectly.
As in other such regimes there’s always struggle, permanent revolution, external (eg. Brussels) and internal (liberals, leftists) enemies to fight. So that the tasks of development, prosperity, let alone democracy, have to wait and that can be a very long wait (see Cuba, if not N. Korea). For the Hungarians it has only been 4-5 years so far.
Hajra, on the way down

George
Guest

work to be continued to broaden EU consensus in terms of long term migration policy, including on how to apply the principles of responsibility and solidarity in the future.. The Visegrad 4 agenda not even on the table. They ignored Orbán and Co.

Ovdiu
Guest
V4 was on the table and it simply blocked the decision making process. Refusing to discuss something is not a choice given that at EU-level the decisions are made by consensus. Italy’s PM Matteo Renzi has just complained yesterday that the meeting has been “useless” and a theater, “mis-en-scene”, with no “real actions” because of disunity between member states, and that Italy has been left alone to manage the flow of African migrants coming across Mediterranean Sea : some 400 000 already this year (and coming ~ 800 000 in Africa on route toward Libya). Renzi wants that EU seeks an agreement with the North-African countries so as to stop the migration. Good luck with that, not much of real states there to deal with there, but perhaps gunboats on Mediterranean would do it. Morgan Johansson, Sweden’s Justice Minister, doubles down and wants that EU takes in from now on ~1 million of immigrants each year, and that EU use majority-vote (not consensus) to impose immigrant quotas unto unwilling states. Good luck with that too as it amounts to the Vest voting against the East and, since the Vest is already “full”, at the limit of its coping abilities, it… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

“some 400 000 already this year”

This is a false number. Between January 1 and September 16, 2016, the number of immigrants arriving by sea in Italy was

129,114 (UNHCR)

Remark:
The number of immigrants landing in Greece was

165,366 between January 1 and September 15.

tappanch
Guest

The numbers since May 2016

arrivals in Greece,
2016-05 1721;
2016-06 1554;
2016-07 1920;
2016-08 3447;
2016-09 (first half): 1622

The Italian numbers are weather-dependent, basically unchanged from last year, with a peak in the summer.

Guest

Git ready! With perhaps ‘something ventured not gained’ the Magyar 8 ball will now do more traveling to Vlad’s side pocket. Or look for more areas where VO can be a literal ‘pesht’.

webber
Guest
Guest

Very informative piece for English language readers on the country that is the Euro ‘squeaky wheel that always wants to get the grease’. At this point perhaps Orban has so much of the stuff stuck into his gears that nothing gets to catch.

Perked up with Kreko’s point. In a way I find it ironic that the constant haranguing of MIGRANTS by Orban is considered the greatest threat to the well-being and existence of Europe. As if that is the origin of destabilization. Ironically he’s got it wrong as he pipes up defiantly in his orations against that nemesis ‘Brussels’. But in fact it is Russia that is the one to be feared. Always the bear waiting to jump. Add another title to the leader of an increasingly fearful country producing fearful people: Feeder of the Bear in Europe. Hard to fathom he’d do it purposely. But it would be better if the old boy would calm down a bit. Europe doesn’t need fellows like him.

Guest

Yes, spot on!

We visited our young ones in Budapest today and I felt like throwing up seeing all those crazy Fidesz posters/billboards!

As I’ve often said: What’s even worse than a liar?
A stupid liar!

Our young ones of course (like us) enjoyed those Two-Tailed-Dog-Party Billboards – we saw some on our way to lunch …

We know that it looks now that (most or at least many?) Hungarians are just stupid enough to believe this idiotic Fidesz propaganda – but what do foreigners think who see them everywhere?

Do they laugh like us or shrug them off – like in Socialist times where you would see signs of “the revolution’s success” and the “Glory of the Party” everywhere?

PS and not too much OT:

The results of the local parliament election in Berlin are in – as I hoped the Jobbik type AfD got around 12 % (more in the East, less in the West) – less than the Old Communists aka the Left which got 16% – ain’t that crazy?

Bowen
Guest

Off topic …
This video documentary shows very well how the ‘Tudta?’ posters are everywhere in the countryside, and how the relentless propaganda is working. Locals fear ‘migrants’, even though they have never seen one.
http://index.hu/video/2016/09/13/videk_menekult_bevandorlas_terror_nepszavazas_plakat/

Guest

Ket Farkas Kutya Party:
The probability of seeing a UFO is higher for most Hungarians in the coutryside than seeing a refugee ( immigrant is the wrong expression).

And there is some correlation:

In the East of Hungary (Szabolcs, Hajdu) the number of people out of work (and the number of underpaid “public workers”) is high as is the “Unhappiness factor” – and the number of refugees is almost zero …
http://budapestbeacon.com/news-in-brief/clap-your-hands-if-you-feel-that-lifes-been-good-to-you/39108
Strange or not?

Our young ones told us today that though they’ve seen quite a few refugees in Budapest last year, they’ve never seen or heard of any trouble with them!

Attila Fenyes
Guest

There is a lot of hate talk about the The hungarian government and Prime Minister, but not a single suggestion on solutions about the migrants. So, here is one: those of you who are in favor of the migrants, go to your government and sign a contract that you are willing to sponsor a migrant family to live in your home, provide all the food, clothing, transportation, medical, school expenses until they can provide for themselves without government welfare. If you are not willing to accept this responsibility – than shut up, and don’t tell other people what to do.

webber
Guest

Ridiculous.
On that logic, if you are pro-choice, you should go out and perform an abortion, or fund one.

webber
Guest

But just incidentally – over the past several decades, many, many Americans have hosted refugees in their homes. When I was a child, we had a Vietnamese refugee living in ours for over a year. He was a delightful person.

Do I think other people should copy that example? I do not.

Each person should act as s/he sees as ethical, and that is very personal.

Attila Fenyes
Guest

You got it. You are pro-choice, perform or fund. I won’t perform and I won’t fund.

webber
Guest

You do fund. Through your taxes.
I also fund a lot of things I don’t like, through my taxes.

Bowen
Guest

Hungary should abide by the 1951 Refugee Convention (which it voluntarily pledged to honour).

In addition, Hungary should abide by EU norms and regulations, and contribute positively to solving the refugee crisis (instead of whipping up xenophobia at vast cost to its own taxpayers). Alternatively, of course, Hungary can leave the EU.

Observer
Guest

Bowen,
U should know this sort of Hungarians: give me what’s due and more, but don’t tell me to do my duty.

Attila Fenyes
Guest

Dear Observer, you just described the typical illegal emigrant.

Guest

“Emigrant”?
You mean that million of Hungarians which left over the years for the civilised West?

Attila Fenyes
Guest

Don’t paint the devil on the wall. (Hungarian proverb)

Member

I have just done that. And I’m very happy with my decision. I have got friends for life. You should try to.

Attila Fenyes
Guest

Dear Albrecht Neumerker, What is “that” that you have done and I should try?

webber
Guest

Obviously, he has taken in some refugees, as all good Christians should.

Attila Fenyes
Guest

I have taken in many hungarian immigrants legal and illegal in the past 50 years. Gave them housing, jobs, paid for education without government welfare. Most of them assimilated into the American culture, some did not and returned to their homeland. So, I have done it many times over.

Zebra
Guest
There is nothing in common between the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. Why the Czechs or Polish put up with this idiotic loser Orban is beyond me. Hungary’s peers are Bulgaria, Moldavia, Serbia, Macedonia (though not Albania which has produced one of the biggest success stories after the fall of communism, albeit from a low basis), Ukraine, Montenegro. Not even Romania any more. Hungary is lagging behind Europe and its supposed peers in every sense, its people are miserable (in the Czech Republic actually there was a population growth in the last years even without the minimal immigration, women are happy to have children). The smart Northern Slavs should just quietly work and get richer and more orderly (as they are doing) while Hungarians effectively are giving up and falling further into the abyss. Or come to think of it these three immensely more successful former communist countries happily keep Hungary in the group. They have a good reason. They can look even better with this swine-faced, corrupt billionaire Orban in theirs midst. But if this is what Hungarians want then it’s all right. Voters are always right even if they vote for Trump or Brexit. Either Hungarians themselves… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Why the Czechs or Polish...–silly question. I guess you don`t know how people of undeveloped values…are subject to the lure of a few hundred thousand euros.

Sandor
Guest

Orban dreams to be leader of the eastern Europe.Good laugh.Lets wait and see.There is this neighbour of Hungary that makes his own policy besides V4 .And they count.

petofi
Guest

Wrong.
Orban dreams of making fools of Hungary and Hungarians.
And, my, how he`s succeeding!

Istvan
Guest
I am not clear that the V4 solidarity has collapsed,, but none the less I am glad to see that Eva has come around to understanding how far the EU was willing to compromise on the refugee issue. Orban as I have stated achieved many of his stated goals going into Bratislava and indeed could have done a victory lap at Bratislava, but instead tried to raise the stakes yet again. I don’t agree with Eva that Orban may have created a split within the V4, Orban may just be playing a role, i.e. the bad cop. Orban pushes forward an even more aggressive agenda while his allies pretend to be more reasonable, yet really don’t disagree with the larger agenda inclusive of reducing the role of the Commission and pushing Pierre Vimont’s idea that I discussed yesterday to “set some clear objectives and commitments on the acceptable level of political and economic migration for the union.” This idea when not presented in the attack dog style of Orban has significant support among the right in the EU and even among centrists. Posing the situation of Orban as a defeat at this point in time is probably premature, the process… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

This story in Hungarian about Robert Fico’s appearance on a Czech Sunday political show is interesting because he stated that he believes the quota issue is no longer on “the agenda” given the concessions made by the EU which have yet to be formalized. Fico made no comment in support or opposition to Orban thoughts presented at the conclusion of the Bratislava. See http://mno.hu/kulfold/a-menekultkvotak-ugye-halott-1362208

tappanch
Guest

Numbers watch!
Referendum 2016 / Election 2017

Number of voters eligible for mail-in vote (those who have no Hungarian address in the central database)

2014-04-06: 193 793
2016-08-19: 265 048
2016-09-01: 269 938
2016-09-15: 269 429 (!) or 269 444
2016-09-18: 274 572

Distribution of their notification address on 2016-09-15:

Romania: 43.58%
e-mail land: 36.37%
Serbia: 11.38%
Ukraine + Slovakia + … : 4.80% [countries forbidding dual citizenship]
All other countries: 3.87%

New !!
Received applications to register [to vote] on 2016-09-15: 326 398 !!

Distribution of their notification address on 2016-09-15:

Romania: 41.73%
e-mail land: 36.50%
Serbia: 11.43%
Ukraine + Slovakia + … : 5.14% [countries forbidding dual citizenship]
All other countries: 5.20%

tappanch
Guest

Eligible ( mail-in/regular) voters:

2014-04-06: 2.416%
2016-09-18: 3.431%

tappanch
Guest

The number of votes already received by the Election Bureau by mail:

2016-09-14: 3
2016-09-15: 7182 (!)

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