Foreign relations expert: Visegrad is at a crossroads
A Visegrad Four summit on migration in Prague, at which member states and representatives of Bulgaria and Macedonia are discussing ways to enforce Balkan borders has raised hackles in Germany which fears these plans could undermine the EUs agreement with Turkey. With an EU summit on migration just days away and some German commentators predicting a clash between Chancellor Merkel and the Visegrad group, I asked foreign relations expert Michal Kořán from the Prague-based Institute of International Relations, for his take on the matter.
"Having said this – and speaking particularly about this summit – I do understand Germany’s concerns. In today’s European Union I think that it would be natural if the Czech presidency of the V4 or the Visegrad group as such would communicate about the summit with Germany prior to the event and would try to prevent any kind of surprise on the part of Germany. I think that this was a failure either of the Czech presidency or the Visegrad group as such that they were unable to communicate this matter to Germany.”
The Visegrad group was established 25 years ago to help these countries with accession to the EU. Is it natural that it is still going strong today – is there a justification for its existence?
“I would contradict the claim that it was established to help its members join the EU, I think that the goal 25 years ago was a little bit broader. The goal was to help end divisions in Europe and EU membership was just part of this goal. That is what concerns me – that the Visegrad group was conceived as a means to overcome borders and today’s summit is aimed at recreating borders again which is why I am concerned about the topic of this summit myself."
What is the purpose of the V4 today – has it changed since it was established – and how do you see its future?
“Well, I think that we are standing at a crossroads – of either looking at how to make the region more competitive, more interconnected and how to help the countries that are still not within the EU – be it in the Balkans or in the eastern neighbourhood – to help them to recover and find their place within the broader European neighbourhood or within the EU itself. That is a positive future open to us. The other future, that I am afraid is on the go right now, is Visegrad being defensive, Visegrad being closed and Visegrad being obstructive. And this is where the analysis ends, because the future is uncertain. I, of course, hope that it will be an open Visegrad, an inspirational Visegrad rather than a defensive Visegrad, but I cannot tell. We will have to wait and see. What we hope for is one thing and what we get is often another. ”
How do you see the viability of the alliance in the years to come, especially now when there are discussions about the possible break-up of Schengen?