Expert: Czechia should not sever ties with V4 following election in Hungary
Following Viktor Orbán’s landslide victory in the Hungarian parliamentary elections this Sunday, some politicians and experts have questioned future cooperation within the Visegrad group, comprising the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. I discussed the question with political scientist Pavlína Janebová from the Association for International Affairs.
“I think the Visegrad Four Group has been experiencing some of the most historical moments in its existence in the past weeks given the Hungarian position towards the conflict in Ukraine and the elections didn’t really change much about that.
“Russia has always been a topic that wasn’t agreed upon in the Visegrad Four. It was always very clear that the position of Poland, on the one hand, and Hungary on the other were quite different.
“Poland has always been very critical towards Russia whereas Hungary has been building relatively strong relations with Putin’s Russia, but the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has escalated this disagreement and I would say it is a critical moment in the cooperation of the V4 on the highest political level.”
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský reacted to the elections by saying that Hungary must choose where it stands - whether it belongs to the EU and NATO or is an ally of Russia. Where exactly does Hungary stand today?
“It is not very clear at the moment. It is true that Hungary hasn’t vetoed any of the EU initiatives when it comes to Russia, but it has supported them quite reluctantly and the way Prime Minister Orban and other Fidesz politicians speak about the conflict suggests that they would like stay aside of the conflict.
Because Russia is a crucial partner for Hungary when it comes to energy, for example, and that was an important issue in the election campaign.
“Now that the elections are over, we might see some change in the Hungarian approach to this. But looking at Orban’s speech after his victory on Sunday, it seems that he intends to keep his rhetoric towards Brussels and about the war in Ukraine as it was.”
Finally, what is the benefit for the Czech Republic to maintain cooperation within the V4 Group, given the increasingly diverse position of the four states on key issues?
“The first thing we need to think about is that the Visegrad countries are neighbouring on each other and we need to cooperate on some level and communicate with each other. That was one of the primary intentions behind the Visegad cooperation. Another intention was that the countries cooperate on issues they agree upon, which doesn’t mean they necessarily have to agree on everything.
“I think even though on the highest political level the approach to the Visegrad cooperation might be quite lukewarm, there is still cooperation on the lower level, and that is something that is very beneficial for the Czech Republic and also for the other countries.
“It involves the countries’ civil societies, citizens cooperating on projects that are supported by the International Visegrad Fund, for example, so I think that this cooperation that has been developing for the past more than 30 years is very beneficial and it wouldn’t be good for the Czech Republic to leave it abruptly.”