Political analyst: Visegrad policy in the EU could backfire

Robert Fico, Angela Merkel, photo: CTK

The Visegrad Four grouping has come under increasing criticism of late for allegedly undermining EU cohesion at a time when the European Union is fighting for its future. In a recent article the Financial Times labelled Visegrad (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary) the alliance’s “awkward squad“, describing them as countries that have benefited from EU membership but are seeking to overturn its institutions. I asked political commentator Jiří Pehe about the “black sheep” label and whether it is not legitimate for these states to jointly defend their common interests in the alliance.

Robert Fico,  Angela Merkel,  photo: CTK
“I think it is quite legitimate for blocks of countries within the EU to have common stances and we have seen this in the case of Scandinavia, the Benelux states and the southern European countries, but the problem is that the Visegrad countries have been going in a direction recently that challenges many of the basic principles of European cooperation and that is something that is not viewed very well in Western Europe and all of this may eventually have some consequences in terms of investment and economic cooperation.”

Will not Slovakia’s EU presidency modify those stands, because Slovakia is now in a position where it needs to push for consensus?

“I am afraid that the Slovak presidency is a good example of the problems that the Visegrad countries have got themselves into. If we take the situation ahead of the Bratislava summit for example, we saw a lot of diplomatic activity on the part of Angela Merkel who travelled to many EU counties and met with more than half of all European leaders, trying to build some platform for the Bratislava summit. This should normally be done by the prime minister of the host country but, obviously, Merkel and the rest of Western Europe do not really trust Robert Fico or any other Visegrad leader to do so, to be able to forge that kind of consensus and now, when Fico was asked to bridge the various attitudes to migration between the east and the west of the EU I am really not sure how he can legitimately do it being the prime minister of a country with a very strong anti-migration stance and that is suing the EU for its decision on quotas.”

Jiří Pehe,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
Can the EU survive under these circumstances?

“I think that the EU will survive, but what we may see is a European Union that will either split into two –with one half that will integrate and be on the fast track and then the rest, or, we may even see the level of frustration in Western Europe, among the original members of the EU, reaching a point where they will somehow try to marginalize the “east” of the EU. So I do not think that what we see right now in Visegrad is helping those countries in terms of their European future.”