Attractive and Centrifugal Forces of the Visegrad Group

13.09.2018

A few years ago in the international media the term Visegrad Group began to obtain a political significance. This surprised precisely those countries that belonged to this group. They waited long for the accession to the European Union as the fulfillment of their post-communist aspirations and so far they still cannot determine their future goal.

The group was established in 1990 during a meeting in Bratislava on the initiative of the then President of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel. It had no formal rules, except the agreement to hold annual meetings of the heads of state - at that time Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. The following year they met in the castle of Visegrad, located on the Danube River north of Budapest. The name Visegrad is of Slavic origin, and the place is connected with the European traditions. In 1335 the castle hosted the meeting of Polish, Czech and Hungarian kings, where they reached an agreement on the mechanism of their relations. The Hungarian organizers gave this meeting a significant program to strengthen cooperation and coordinate their policies regarding the outside world. Genius loci of the place and idealistic intentions in the future gave the group a name - the Visegrad group. After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the group consisted of four states - Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Since its formation and up to now the group is united by two main attractive factors - a common history and partially common goals. It relates to  royal rule in certain periods of alliances and common defense. For 1000 years Hungary and Poland had a common border and never fought each other. The Jagiełło Polish-Lithuanian royal family at the end of the Middle Ages ruled both in Czechia and Hungary, later the Habsburgs came to replace it. During the defense of Vienna in 1683 the decisive blow to the Ottoman army was inflicted by the Polish king Jan Sobieski, and the victory near Vienna led to the liberation of Hungary from Turkish domination. Even during World War II the Polish resistance was based in Hungary, the ally of Nazi Germany, and commanders, money and everything else were sent to Poland through another ally of Germany - Slovakia.

In the economic field, the group so far was always united in upholding the requirements to finance projects from the budget of the European Union. The group has its own centrifugal forces. The Slovak-Hungarian border is not the ethnic border of two countries. Hungary is not satisfied with the borders that were defined by the Treaty of Trianon after the First World War. In foreign policy Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary can find a common ground with Russia, Poland is on the other side. Among the countries of the Visegrad group there is an unwritten rule - in general matters they act together, in other matters they act individually or in other groups. The informal character of the group allows this. A long common historical experience keeps the group together, despite the differences.

The Visegrad group in its present form is united by the migration problem in Europe. Most of this affected Hungary: immigrants from Africa and the Middle East moved along the Balkan route and Hungary became the first country on their way to Central Europe, primarily to Germany. In 2015 the center of Budapest was filled with immigrants. The Hungarian government had to do something, and Prime Minister Victor Orban with his inherent radicalism announced the construction of a fence on the Hungarian-Serbian border. For liberal non-governmental organizations and the media he became an enemy. In 2015, the European Commission approved a program for the mandatory redistribution of immigrants arriving in Europe between member states in accordance with the quotas. Hungary protested this decision and members of the Visegrad supported it. Slovakia and Hungary filed a lawsuit against the European Union, but they lost in the court in Luxembourg. Other EU member states also were against the compulsory redistribution of immigrants, which made the EU Commission stop this program. However, the Visegrad group remains the center of resistance against the uncontrolled reception of immigrants.

It should be noted, that in all states of the Visegrad group there is an ethnic definition of the nation, and not a legal one, as, for example, in France or in the United States. In  19th and 20th centuries all the Visegrad peoples passed through the period of struggle for national rights, and they are very sensitive to the migration issue. Therefore, in accepting a significant number of immigrants they see a threat to their national identity. Agreeing with the reception of a predetermined number of immigrants, they would have to lose a significant part of state sovereignty. The Visegrad group with its resistance against the reception of immigrants demonstrates the conceptual shortcoming of the EU immigration policy. The Commission practically did not see any differences between the immigrants and wanted to intervene in this process during the redistribution among the member states. Even Angela Merkel said beforehand that immigrants from Syria should be accepted, since they ran from dictatorship. Her words led to the development of forged passports in the Arab world. The immigration policy of Angela Merkel and the European Union as a whole showed, that the European Union is still the vassal of the United States. The United States at that time had a geopolitical goal - the seizing of Syria, and the starting point to achieve this goal was to overthrow President Assad. But the conquest of Syria was not agreed as a geopolitical goal with the European Union.

The Visegrad group was at the beginning of the processes, which exceeded the original goals. The countries of the Visegrad group wanted to prevent the European Commission from making a decision on how many immigrants can be moved to their territories. It turned out that this issue bothers residents of other EU member states as the elections results showed, like in Austria. The new government of Italy, on the one hand, criticizes the Visegrad group, but at the same time it has a program that will force the European Union to change the migration policy. Opinion polls in Germany show that after the elections there are changes in the migration policy. The European Union should change not only the migration policy, but also domestic and foreign policy in general. And the changes have already begun.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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