What do V4 objections mean for deal aimed at keeping UK in EU?

Donald Tusk, Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: CTK

The attention of Europe will be on Brussels on Thursday when EU leaders meet to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s membership. However, while the likes of Germany and France are keen to cut a deal and help prevent a possible British exit from the EU, the Czech Republic and the other Visegrad Four states are refusing to accept certain provisions.

Donald Tusk,  Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, has been whizzing around Europe, trying to drum up support for renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the EU.

That deal is seen as crucial in preventing a British exit from the bloc, which Mr. Tusk describes as a real risk.

On Tuesday, between stops in Greece and Germany, he was in Prague for talks with the Czech prime minister.

However, Bohuslav Sobotka told the European Council chief that the Visegrad Four – also including Poland, Slovakia and Hungary – were holding out against the proposals.

“In the draft deal that has been presented we still see problematic areas. We want to hold negotiations on the details in the time we have. The problems concern the extent of the intervention in the social system. Specifically this means the index-linking of child benefits and the so-called emergency brake under which some benefits could be curtailed under strong pressure of economic migration. We are going to present the joint position of the V4 at the European Council.”

Responding, Mr Tusk said the Visegrad group’s objections meant that EU leaders would now have to go the “extra mile” to secure an agreement.

But what if a deal isn’t struck before Thursday’s summit? Academic Ivo Šlosarčík is an expert on European affairs.

David Cameron,  photo: CTK
“Of course the talks may collapse. That happens sometimes at European level. But I think there is a strong will to find a compromise. The question is whether that will be a genuine compromise that can be built on, or a European kicking of the can down the road. This would involve using ‘creative ambivalence’, meaning terms that each side will be able to interpret at home as a success, but which will lead to further disputes in the future.”

For his part MEP Miroslav Poche, from the Czech PM’s Social Democratic Party, is confident the deal will be approved on Thursday.

“I think that the agreement with David Cameron is almost ready at the diplomatic and political level. The V4 have attempted – in my view under pressure from Slovakia – to improve further the conditions that have been negotiated. But I believe the summit will approve the deal as presented, thereby enabling the British prime minister to recommend that his voters opt to remain in the EU in the referendum.”