Analyst: Visegrad presidency should push for constructive approach to migrant crisis

Photo: CTK

Prague on Wednesday took up the year-long presidency of the Visegrad 4, comprising the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. At a press conference, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek outlined plans for two summits as well as increased cooperation in energy, security and defence. But some were surprised a more explicit reference wasn’t made to one of the top problems facing the European Union today: the migration crisis.

Photo: CTK
Earlier I spoke to Radko Hokovský of the European Values think-tank.

“You mentioned migration and the immigration crisis which is at the top of the EU agenda and I have to say I was surprised that it is not included as one of the priorities of the Czech Visegrad 4 presidency. It should be there and it should be a priority. Not that the Visegrad Four should solve the problem but as a point where the four countries can cooperate very closely together and propose some common measures on the European agenda. Migration is mentioned here and there in the paperwork but is not explicitly stated as a priority.

“In terms of the long-term, the Czech presidency is focusing on energy, Eastern Partnership and cooperation in defence and security. Those are areas where the Visegrad partners have been cooperating and strengthening ties for some time. But I am surprised that migration is not explicitly mentioned.”

One of the journalists at Wednesday’s press conference suggested that there could be “corrosion” within the Visegrad 4 (an idea rejected by Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek) referring to Hungary taking its own tough stance on the migration issue…

Radko Hokovský,  photo: archive of Charles University
“That’s right. There are differences and nobody should deny that and it is something we need to be aware of. One area is, for example, the approach to Russia. That is perhaps is why the Czech presidency’s No.1 priority being spelled out is ‘togetherness’ and working towards a greater trust.”

Within that framework, what do you think the Czech presidency will consider to be a success, if they can achieve it, by the year’s end?

“If the members can agree on a firm common position on the energy union and if they are able to shape the design of the energy union that it would be beneficial for the Visegrad 4 - that would be an accomplishment. But to come back to what we talked about first, migration, I would consider the Visegrad 4 cooperation – and the Czech Visegrad presidency – a success if they protect their common interests and can formulate constructive proposals influencing the EU approach to the migrant crisis. That would be a real achievement.”