How strong is the Visegrád Four? According to some, it barely exists

Martin Mojžiš, professor at Comenius University in Bratislava, wrote an article recently with the title “How strong is V4?.” He came to the conclusion that “there is no V4, with a real political life, in reality.” Only recently Viktor Orbán claimed that the V4 is “strong as never before,” but Mojžiš’s opinion is that V4’s strength relies only on “strong words,” coming mostly from Viktor Orbán.

The ambassadors to the United States of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia got together the other day and gave a joint press conference which, according to Foreign Policy, is the only way for small countries to call attention to themselves. And yet, asks the author of the article, “Does anyone in the Trump administration care about the Visegrád 4?” The answer is “no.” I suspect that the gathering in the Hungarian Embassy’s Pulitzer Salon was initiated by the new Hungarian ambassador, László Szabó, former human resources director for the U.S. pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. One of his jobs is to promote the concept and policies of the Visegrád Four in Washington. During the press conference the Czech ambassador conceded that to have the four countries act in concert is a “challenge.” For example, a meeting of representatives of the four countries’ foreign ministers was planned, but it never took place.

From left to right Ambassadors Hynek Kmoníček, László Szabó, Piotr Wilczek, Jozef Polakovič / Source: The Georgetown Dish

One reason for the U.S.’s lack of interest is the chaos that has reigned in Washington this year. But I suspect that even the State Department’s seasoned diplomats think that the Visegrád Four might not survive for long. Indeed, there are more and more signs of the regional alliance’s possible demise, which would be a major blow to Viktor Orbán, who considers the recent “revival” of the group his own handiwork. In fact, some people already in early July came to the conclusion that “Visegrád is dead” and that, in fact, “an anti-Orbán alliance is in the making in Central Europe.” This interpretation is a bit too Hungaro-centric for my taste, but there are indications that Orbán’s pride and joy is in trouble. For instance, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are reconsidering the efficacy of partaking in the fight of Poland and Hungary against the European Union. Thus, these two countries are looking for partners elsewhere. One result of this search is the Slavkov Triangle (S3) named after Slavkov, formerly known as Austerlitz, where the prime ministers of Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia met at the end of June. More can be found on the Slavkov Triangle in my post “What awaits the Visegrád Four?”

A couple of months later, on August 15, Robert Fico backtracked from his previous euroskeptic position and distanced himself from Hungary and Poland when he announced that Slovakia’s place is in the deeply integrated “core” Europe. Fico announced that “the fundamentals of my policy are being close to the [EU] core, close to France, to Germany.” He added that he is “very much interested in regional cooperation within the Visegrád Four, but Slovakia’s vital interest is the EU.” One could foresee such a development earlier when Fico, after conferring with Jean-Claude Juncker, announced his willingness to accept 60 refugees. Moreover, of the four Visegrád countries it was only Slovakia against which the European Commission didn’t initiate infringement procedures for rejecting migrant quotas.

But that’s not all. The Czech Republic’s foreign minister Lubomír Zaorálek just announced, according to Reuters, that his country may try to get an observer seat at the Eurogroup of Eurozone finance ministers if the body’s decision-making powers are boosted under plans to reshape the European Union. Having an observer status would be beneficial to the Czech Republic, and it is unlikely that this attitude would change even if a new government wins the elections in October. All in all, there is a fairly rapid abandonment of the hard-line positions of Poland and Hungary by the Slovaks and Czechs.

A couple of weeks ago we learned that the prime ministers of S3 will gather in Salzburg on August 23, where they will meet the French president on his way to a three-day trip of some Central European countries. The topic will be “the future of Europe.” From Austria Macron will fly to Romania and Bulgaria. Hungary and Poland are not included in his itinerary. We don’t know whether Hungary tried to convince Macron to visit Budapest or not but, according to Politico, the Polish government tried its best to entice Macron to stop over in Warsaw but hey “didn’t see much willingness” on the part of the Élysée Palace. Perhaps Macron has given up on the two intransigent illiberal states, although French diplomats keep insisting that Macron has no intention of driving a wedge between the Central European nations that came together in this regional alliance.

Still, there is little doubt that the European Commission and the some of the Western European leaders would like to weaken the influence of Poland and Hungary over the Visegrád Four. Deutsche Welle’s reporter, for example, believes that “the EU is now eyeing Slovakia as a peacemaker,” a country that might be helpful in keeping Poland and Hungary at bay. Moreover, if the Czechs join “core” Europe, Hungary will certainly want to reconsider its relationship with “Brussels.” As we know from past experience, Polish-Hungarian friendship has its limits. Viktor Orbán will not hesitate to abandon Warsaw if he feels that it is no longer to his advantage to support the Polish position. Now that the summer is more or less over, I’m sure that exciting days are ahead of us, especially within the sphere of EU-Hungarian relations.

August 22, 2017
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Mrozek
Guest

I have a feeling that the ambassador’s meeting in DC was a desperate attempt by new Hungarian Ambassador to Washington, László Szabó, to show unity… a publicity stunt.

Guest

While I can see some resemblance between Hungary and Poland (i.e. the dismantling of democratic norms and the rejection of Muslim migrants / Brussels), I don’t see what these 2 countries really have in common; both seem quite isolated.

bimbi
Guest

From the start the so-called “Visegrad Four” was a creation of Viktor Orbán to try and cobble together some strength to his intransigent opposition to the EU. The “Visegrad” brand, which has some ring of dignity in the region, was crudely appropriated (read “stolen”) in order to provide some nominal credibility to the grouping.

It is now clear that the interests of the initial participants – and particularly Slovakia and Czechia – do not coincide with Orbán’s narrow dog-in-a-manger programme. Despite his proclamations to the contrary, this east European gang-of-four grouping is in a state of disintegration. It will not be missed, established as it was to serve selfish and short-term interests.

Another loss for what passes as “diplomacy” in Orbán’s Hungary.

exTor
Guest

comment image

http://kanadaihirlap.com/2013/02/23/kinek-hazudsz-meg-viktor

I found the above in a February 2013 Kanadai Magyar Hírlap article.

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Some Euroskeptics seem somewhat weak-kneed these days. Any Orbán weakness should be exploitable in the leadup to the 2018 election.

Just yesterday I spoke with a neighbor who believes that a two-thirds Fidesz majority is not achievable. In fact, he believes that a plain majority might not be doable by Fidesz. He thinks that there is too much negativity with respect to Orbán/Fidesz floating around and it’s impacting the public.

MAGYARKOZÓ

NWO
Guest

A concerted effort by the Western Europeans to isolate Hungary and Poland seems to be the strategy, and the fact that the Czechs and Slovaks understand this and are reacting as they are will lead to further isolation for Orban and Kaczynski. Between Poland and Hungary, the issue of Russia it seems will continue to be a major problem, and means that whatever else the Poles believe they cannot too much alienate the U.S. and Nato. Orban is likely to feel increasingly lonely (rightfully so), but I have a very hard time seeing how this is at all relevant for the upcoming election. Hungarians are completely insular. Foreign policy does not feature on State run TV, and when it does it is ridiculous Orban set pieces. The election will be fought as always over the economy (who makes more believable false promises) and fear. Of course, with the gerrymandered election playing field and an incompetent, fractured opposition, not that hard to win (just as Trump).

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘Russia…will continue to be the major problem’

For sure….like always for the EU and especially the V4 who now see that one size does not fit all as they try to maneuver with the Putin-Bear hovering. No doubt it keeps them up at night now that a US with an aggressive President Trump has been moving a bit of furniture around in the US-Europe parlor. The V4 has been sitting uneasy in the uncomfortable chairs now that some of the order they were used to has faded away.

Messrs Orban and Kaszynski wily political mavens they are perhaps are now trying to figure out a few things. One is being careful that they will not be on a path of acting like chumps for Russian and Chinese strategic ambitions in their neck of the woods and watching how much they can try the patience of the Brussels goose before the golden eggs disappear.

All in all this boils down to where the V4’s interests really lie with the ‘big hitters’. And from the looks of it they are in a pretty tight vise.

Istvan
Guest
If the Visegrád Four ambassadors want the attention of President Trump and in particular of General Kelly, and General McMaster then they need to pay attention to what Trump said this week in his address on Afghanistan. Here is in relevant part what Trump said: “Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition — attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge. We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will.” So will the Visegrád Four send a few thousand of its heroes to battle these dregs? Not hundreds as was the case in the past? While Trump praised Poland for its spending of 2% of GDP on defense in his July 6, 2017 speech in Warsaw, the time has come for those expenditures to be materialized in terms of real blood and guts. A few hundred dead from the militaries of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia over… Read more »
wrfree
Guest
Re: ‘fighting to win’ You know I was a bit discomfited with the phrase ‘fighting to win’. I would think anytime the US engages against its enemies it goes without saying. We don’t fight fights to see good soldiers die for the hell of it. I am not enamored of the CiC’s leadership style where he has to actually spell things out and then may have to nail results , results by the way that just might not come to fruition, to the mast he is flying. There will be battles up ahead. Statistically there is a probability some will be won and some lost. And it is there where POTUS’ leadership skills reside for the challenges ahead. How will he react to losses? If the ‘wins’ won’t come or are few and far between will he bring on the ‘blame game’ which is the last thing a military needs to hear from an ‘exec’. On that he’s been giving some political theater on that score lately. Perhaps more thrills and spills to come. With the push, the military now will be learning how interaction with POTUS will go on. Sure hope it works with Mr. ‘Collegiality’. Right now his… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Szijjàrto’s practically accusing the US State Depr of incompetence and urging them to get rid of those under the influence of Obama will hardly improve Hun standing there.
The shooting themselves in the foot routine, but they always blame God for striking the Magyar.

seinean
Guest

The French president – Emmanuel Macron -has another important topic to discuss at Bucharest and Sofia, and that is the so called Bolkenstein Directive (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Services_in_the_Internal_Market_Directive_2006). This directive from 2006 is considered by many in France as generating a “social dumping”. Macron will put pressure on Romania and Bulgaria ( the main providers nowadays of temporary workers for France) to accept changes to this EC directive.

Ferenc
Guest

OT – Quote of the Week
CNN’s Don Lemon (about Trump’s speech):
“what we have witnessed was a total eclipse of the facts”
More at http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/23/politics/don-lemon-trump-speech-a-total-eclipse-of-the-facts-cnntv/index.html

wrfree
Guest

‘Unhinged’…..jaysus of all things to be said.

Hope should be on the horizon that real estate need not be a proving ground for elevation to the highest office of the land. One grad is enough thank you.

wpDiscuz