A New Division Between Eastern And Western Europe?


Csaba Tóth

About Csaba Tóth

Dr. Csaba Tóth, co-founder and strategy director of the Republikon Institute, a political scientist and sociologist, graduated from the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) Faculty of Law and Faculty of Social Sciences. He works as a teacher at the Institute of Political Studies at ELTE and is a member of the Hungarian Presidency Political Science Association. His areas of expertise are party politics and policy meeting of the EU; Developments in the Euro-skepticism and the change in the party system.

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, political elites in Central and Eastern Europe believed that their countries could be successful if they became more like Western Europe. This is no longer the case. The victory of Law and Justice (PiS) in Poland means that now three prime ministers in the Visegrad countries believe these differences between the East and the West are not there to overcome – but to build upon. The Visegrad countries now represent an alternative approach to democracy: more majoritarian, nationalistic and conservative, less European. 

One can view politics in the Visegrad countries as conflicts between two competing visions of European and national identity. In Poland, as much as in Hungary – or Slovakia – there are those who would like to see their countries resemble a “normal” Western European nation: more liberal in social issues, less interested in national mythology and more enthusiastic about the European project. Their parties usually represent more affluent voters and are more open to free market ideas. Civic Platform (PO) in Poland was a very good example, but you can find them in Slovakia – on the political right – and Hungary – on the political left – as well. Mikuláš Dzurinda in Slovakia, Gordon Bajnai in Hungary and Donald Tusk in Poland were all part of this “westernising” elite.

There has always been resentment against these Europhile political forces. Hungary’s Viktor Orbán has so far been the most successful in challenging this resentment and turning it into a coherent coalition of nationalist, conservative and more euroskeptical voter. Orbán combined anti-European rhetoric with left-leaning economic policies, conservative and anti-communist messages and populist symbolism. The victory of PiS was based on similar elements. It is not surprising that most right-wing opinion leaders in Hungary were happy to see Civic Platform defeated; Orbán’s Fidesz resembles PiS a lot more than it does PO. They might be different in how they view Putin, but thera are plenty of similarities.

Neither Fidesz nor PiS is anti-European – but they do have a different view about the EU than Brussels. In this view, the EU is not about compromise but conflict; the EU is a battlefield where national interests predominate – and Poland and Hungary have national interests that their leaders need to represent even if this means undermining European solidarity. According to this interpretation, this pursuit of national interest against the Brussels bureaucracy actually benefits the entire Union. The Visegrad countries are seen as the healthy innovators of a slowing, declining, “overcomfortable”, post-nationalistic Union. Their role is not to become more like “consolidated” democracies but to shake things up and energise the Union.

While this view means less compromise with Brussels, it does mean more intra-group cooperation. With Poland and Hungary – and, in most cases, Slovakia – now ruled by parties sharing a broadly similar outlook, the Visegrad cooperation might emerge with an increased importance. The Central Eastern European region is likely to become homogeneous in policy positions – but also more divergent from the rest of Europe. The price to pay for more Visegrad on the political arena might be the re-emergence of the East-West division.


The views expressed in this opinion editorial are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Emerging Europe’s editorial policy.


Serbia’s New PM Is Cut From a Familiar Cloth

Serbian flag emerging europe

The Competitive Edge in Central and Eastern Europe

SOFIA BULGARIA - MAY 5: View of the Ivan Vazov National Theatre in Sofia on May 5 2016. Sofia is the largest city and capital of Bulgaria.

People Power Reminds the Government of the Rule of Law

The Netherlands’ Objection to the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement could be Costly to Europe

Falling into Old Ways in 2017? Ukraine’s Struggle for Functioning Economic Institutions

Belarus 2020: Turning the Vicious Circle Into an Upward Spiral

When Neutrality Isn’t an Option

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

After 25 Years of Restructuring, the Romanian Power Sector Is at a Crossroad

Moldova Falls Victim to Politicising

moldova emerging europe

Poland Challenges the European Identity

Poland emerging europe

The GREAT London Food Scene

Bakery in London

Fiscal Policy Predictability in CEE — It’s Time for Change

Poland’s Confusing GDP Growth

Is the Level of Foreign Ownership a Problem in Emerging Europe?

Flags of European countries flying from their capital cities. Viewed from the South.

Let’s Stop Wasting Time Redefining our Place in Europe

Old Fashioned Skulduggery Overshadows the Elections in Moldova

How strong is V4?

Viktor Orban

Bulgaria Needs a Reform-Oriented Government to Take Full Advantage of its EU Membership

bulgaria emerging europe

Are There Differences Between How Tax Regulations in Poland and IAS Treat Intangible Assets?

Breaking With Imitations of the Past

European Volatility Makes Economic Development Slower for Ukraine

Poland’s Unicorn, Slovakia’s Flying Car and the Future of Europe

Belarusian Journalists Still Face Huge Problems

How Will Trump’s Visit Affect Polish Politics?

Donald trump

Adam Smith’s Warning for Poland

The Long Tail of Global Expansion

Poland Needs to Cling to the Eurozone

zloty euro emerging europe

The EU’s Choice: Fundamental Reform Or Disintegration

Will the New Five-day Visa-free Regime Encourage More Visitors to Belarus?

Poland’s Capital Saturation Lower Than the Czech Republic’s

deloitte fdi poland

Swimpassing Dniester Without Prejudice To Democracy

Parliament of the republic of moldova in chisinau, national flag, stefan cel mare street, spring time with blue sky

The Sharing Economy Could Bring New Business Models to CEE

China: A Giant That Is Hard to Crack

Poland: Is it Ready, and is it Time to Adopt the Euro?

The EU’s Benign Neglect Of Eastern Europe

Brexit: Let’s Learn the Lesson and Hope a Better Europe Will Arise

January Kicks Off an Exciting Year for Emerging Europe

History as Destiny? Institutional Erosion in Ukraine and Poland

A Bosnian Referendum Shows Russia’s Influence in the Balkans—As Well As Its Limits

2018 Elections — Vital Decisions for Hungary’s Future

Victor Orban energing europe

Examining How a Strong Swiss Franc Could Single-Handedly Topple Poland’s Economy

Europe at Odds over OPAL and Nord Stream 2

Prepare for a New Europe

Slovenia’s Presidential Election: Pahor Expected to Romp Home

Slovenia flag against blue sky waving in wind

Impact of Brexit on EU-CEE Not Overstated

theresa may brexit

Good Match But Unlikely Marriage

Big Fish, Small Fish, Where to Fish? On the Eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Could the West At Least Help Ukraine To Insure FDI Against Political Risks?

Will a Two-speed European Union Side-line the Visegrad Four?

Stuck in Neutral: Georgia’s Constitutional Reforms

Tbilisi Parliament Georgia

Polish Tax Laws — Fighting a Winning Battle Against Tax Evaders

EU Visa-Liberalisation Strengthens Georgia’s Pro-Western Path

georgia emerging europe eu

The Morawiecki Plan Promises a Brighter Future for Poland

Are Labour Shortages Driving Economic Growth?

International Women’s Day — Let’s Take Action And Then Celebrate

Czech Republic Renaming Has Real Economic Costs

Measuring Growth of Societies with GDP Alone Shows an Incomplete Picture

CEE-Benefits and Disadvantages of Joining the Eurozone

forint zloty euro

Poland’s Drift Away From Democracy

Defending EU Values in Poland and Hungary

Eu hungary poland

Is there any prospect of ‘Polexit’?

poland european union polexit

After Its Significant Rise the Georgian Economy May Now Fall

Panorama of Tbilisi, Georgia in sunset rays. Vivid, saturated, splittoned image.

Hungary and Israel: the Collision of Past and Present

Budapest synagoge

The Right to Water: Who Can Change Today’s Situation?

Ex-Transition Economies’ FDI Recovery

dollar euro fdi

Why Hungary’s New NGO Law Is Harmful for Business

Budapest, Hungary. Aerial view of the old city Budapest, Hungary with river and Parliament Building with cloudy blue sky

Czech Own Currency Insures Against Euro Losses

Euro Czech republic emerging europe

Albania’s Election Apathy

tirana albania

Finalising the DCFTA is Expected to Bring Multiple Benefits to Ukraine

The Capital Markets Union: a New Beginning in the European Financial Sector?

The Voice of European Business Must Be Heard Loud and Clear by Brexit Negotiators

Outsourcing in Germany: Stop Talking at and Start Talking to

Changing Perspectives and Showing That True Romania is a Vibrant Innovative Country

The Global Outsourcing Industry — the Rise of the Phoenix

Hungary’s Nationalist Assault on Free Enquiry

victor orban ceu

We, the Post-Communist Generation, Have the Skills to Rid of the Past And Create Our Own Future

Romania Surviving the Waves of Recent Political Tsunamis in Europe

Partnership is the Key to CEE-Indian Business

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Moves from Frozen to Kinetic


A Positive and Modern View of Entrepreneurship

Macedonia’s Controversial Coalition Government

SKOPJE MACEDONIA emerging europe

Where’s My Cheese? – The GREAT British Food Tour 2014

Cheese Shop

Global Expansion in the Digital Age

The CEE Region Is Making Advances in Prioritising Waste-to-Energy Projects

Ukraine’s Reputation for Cheap Labour May Not Ring True in the Long-term

PiS Uses Media Control to Bring Poland to Heel

Jaroslaw kaczynski pis emerging europe

Only a United Opposition Can Defeat Poland’s Ruling Law and Justice Party

Classical building of Polish parliament. Warsaw in Poland.

LGBT in CEE — A New Acceptance Is Being Born From Migration

Central and Eastern European Consumers Are Joining the Global Trends for Change

Can Armenia Keep a Foot in Both Camps?

European union armenia russia emerging europe

Resignation in Ukraine: War, Revolution, Crisis — Some Things Never Change

Emphasising the Incongruence Between the V4 Countries

Macron emerging europe

Will Poland Leave the European Union?


Business Moving Forward with Cautious Optimism — Can Investors Win the Confidence Game?

Is the CEE Region About to Steal the Outsourcing Crown From India?

Amazing view on the Taj Mahal in sunset light with reflection in water. The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river. Agra Uttar Pradesh India.

EU-CEE Is Still Growing at a Healthy Rate

Prague emerging europe

Europe Needs To Be More Proactive In Embracing Armenia

Azerbaijan: The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Nothing


E-lifestyle and Cyber Security: Some Views From Estonia

Cyber Security Protection Firewall Interface Concept

Under Promise, Over Deliver: Prospects for the EU’s Eastern Partnership in 2018

Eastern partnership

How Will Poland Approach the Brexit Negotiations?

Regional Relations in the Western Balkans: Moving Beyond Folklore

Bosnia and Herzegovina flag with Serbia flag, 3D rendering

Not All Quiet on the Eastern Front

CEE — Do We Need a Launch Pad For Our On-Site Tech Intelligence in the Silicon Valley

United or Divided? Europe in the Face of the Challenges of Tomorrow

Political Tensions Rise As Croatia Allegedly Breaks the Dublin III Refugee Regulation

croatia migrants

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *