How strong is V4?

.

Martin Mojžiš

About Martin Mojžiš

Martin Mojžiš is an associate professor of physics at the Comenius University in Bratislava and also an editor of .týždeň magazine. In this magazine he writes about a wide range of themes, from science, through sport and literature, to politics and important matters. His popular science articles from .týždeň magazine were published as books (so far three books have been published and a fourth is ready for publication).

According to Viktor Orbán the V4 is “as strong as never”. Orbán considers the strengthening of this group as the most important event in recent times. Is this really so? Is V4 really strong? Does it even exist at all?

Orbán claims the V4 that unites “romantic Hungarians, enthusiastic Poles, rational Czechs and moderate Slovaks” not only exists, but, thanks to the ideals it spreads, it is becoming the bearer of all of Europe’s future. Let’s take a close look at its existence and then let’s consider its ideals and future.

Symbolic establishment; factual end

Practically straight after the fall of the Iron Curtain, in 1989, Foreign Affairs magazine published an article by Zbigniew Brzezinski about Post-Communist Nationalism. In his article the former national security advisor to the US president warned of the danger of an eruption of nationalism in the Soviet Bloc’s falling apart: “While Marx characterised the tsar Russia as a prison of nations and Stalin made it a cemetery of nations, under Gorbachev the Soviet Empire is quickly becoming a volcano of nations.”

Brzezinski considered the main danger would from the immature nationalisms of Eastern Europe’s nations. According to him this immature nationalism was not resulting from immature nations, but was a result of the natural nationalism’s improper grounding in mutual cooperation.

While Western Europe progressed in cooperation, from the Marshall plan through European Coal and the Steel Community to the establishment of the European Union, there was nothing similar in Eastern Europe. The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (RVHP) was not a tool of international cooperation, but rather a tool of Soviet control and it often even prevented such cooperation (no mutual advice, no economic assistance).

That is exactly why Brzezinski proposed supporting closer cooperation between the states of Eastern Europe. He mentioned Slovenia and Croatia, Austria and Hungary, but mainly gave Poland and Czechoslovakia as concrete examples. He referred to a close cooperation between Poland and Czechoslovakia, which could eventually have the character of a confederation, as an economically and politically stabilising element of Central Europe.

A similar idea was also promoted by Václav Havel, who already called for such cooperation, in January 1990, in his speech in Polish Sejm, where he proposed to also involve Hungary. The objective of such cooperation should have been not only mutual solidarity in applying for acceptance into various western structures, but also a sensible fulfilment of the geopolitical vacuum, which appeared in Central Europe after the fall of the Habsburg Monarchy. Havel’s vision was a transformation of Central Europe, from a historical and spiritual phenomenon into a political phenomenon.

A year later, the Visegrád Group or V3 was established, at a meeting of the prime minister of Hungary, Jozef Antal,; the Czechoslovak president, Václav Havel, and the Polish president, Lech Walesa. The name was a symbolic selection. It was at Visegrád, in 1335, that a meeting was held between the Hungarian Empire’s king, Charles Robert of Anjou, the Czech king, John of Luxembourg and the Polish king, Casimir III. At this meeting the monarchs settled some of their disputes and made new agreements.

In 1992, Czechoslovakia transformed into the Czech Republic  and Slovakia, and the V3 became V4. It was a significant change, because if there was ever an opportunity for Visegrád to become a real political group, Mečiar’s Slovakia buried this chance completely for the next six years. The joint proceeding of the V4 countries, for example when Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic received invitations to join NATO in 1997, but Slovakia did not — would be fully against all basic strategic and civilisational interests of whole region.

Slovakia eventually became a member of NATO, but only in 2004, five years after the other three countries of the Visegrád Four. In the same year all four countries also joined the European Union and it could have looked as if the V4 had finally become something real. But it was no longer needed. The European Union completely saturated the need for integration into a bigger transnational group, on its own. And as for any closer institutional cooperation within Central Europe, there was never an adequate will and probably no motivation.

Cooperation — case study

Naturally, this does not mean that there is no space for such cooperation. It only means that if such space exists, we willingly do not use it. Let’s take the example of energies. It is not only strategically very significant, but also economically — a very interesting area. The European Union tries to support better connection between the energy networks of the individual states, and even wants to contribute directly to building such connections. This is because the EU sees potential for cheaper energy and increased security. Are the countries of V4 trying to cooperate in this framework? No. They do make much effort within this framework. The reasons are political, and even if these vary between countries, they have something in common: the particular interests of the individual governments prevail and push away and interest in anything as chimeric as V4.

When it comes to electric energy, only the historically agreed cooperation with the Czech Republic works. We are going to build a more significant connection with Hungary, but only after long years of shuffling at one place. Why have we shuffled? Because this connection will result in a decrease in the prices of electric energy, in at least one country (in this case in Hungary). Even though a lower price seems like a good thing, it does not have to be good for everyone. For example, the oligarchs lose their profits. Oligarchs do not like it and they always know where to push, to avoid that political decisions threaten their profits for no reason. A strengthening of the electric connection to Poland faces another problem. After the completion of the construction of a nuclear power plant in Mochovce, any relatively cheap and under-used Slovak electric energy could threaten the profitability of the Polish thermal and coal power plants. This is politically a very sensitive issue. V4 here, V4 there, charity begins at home.

What about cooperation in the area of piped gas? The EU also provides contributions to build infrastructure here, mainly in the north-southern direction, which could help connect the Baltic harbours to the Adriatic Sea. This also involves the (already built) connection between Slovakia and Hungary, which has no gas in it (both countries are buying it from Russia), and the planned connection of Slovakia to Poland, which is similarly not interesting economically at the moment. These then, can be seen as some kind of long-term strategic investment for the EU, rather than cooperation within V4, above standard. As well as this, the V4 countries are fighting amongst each other for the future profits from transporting gas to Ukraine.

If Russia bypasses Ukraine in its distribution of gas to Europe and simultaneously stops providing gas to Ukraine at the market price, gas will need to come to Ukraine from Europe. This will be through Slovakia, or through Poland. Hungary also has an opportunity to play their role in the gas game – through the so-called second branch of Turkish Stream (the first branch, which is already being built, is supposed to run from Russia to Turkey, and the second branch would run from Turkey to Europe). This second branch could be used to transfer Russian gas to Austria and further on through Hungary. However, the more gas that goes through Hungary, the less will go through Slovakia or the Czech Republic. Thus, in the area of gas, too, it is something of a fight for the biggest piece of cake, within the framework of V4. In fact, it is more of a fight for the biggest communal cake.

Then, what are we strong at?

If V4 is as strong as Orbán claims, then where is this strength? It relies on — and no one illustrates it better than Orbán — strong words. There is no V4, with a real political life, in reality. There is something called Central Europe, but that is not the same as the other cultural-historical-geographical groups within Europe. Benelux, Scandinavia or the Baltic States are not only seen as natural groups from outside, but also from the inside. Their common citizens there feel a sense of belonging, not only to their state but also to this bigger group. In contradiction, Central-Europeanism does not exist among ordinary people, as a shared feeling.

What do the strong words of the weak or non-existing group rely on? If we reduce it to the absolute basics, then it is on rejecting of immigrant quotas proposed by the European Union. In this particular question the Central European countries, coincidentally, have the same attitude. This agreement is presented as the power of V4. Orbán does not stop there: “For 27 whole years, we, in the Central Europe, have believed that our future is Europe, but now we feel that we alone are the future of Europe.”

The worst thing about these words is the fact that they may be true. In times when Europe and the whole world stand in front of very complex and urgent questions; in times when many things that were previously considered simple and clear need to be re-thought, in times when Central Europe comes with the clearly declared philosophy of being a back-seat passenger. At the core of this philosophy lies an asymmetric understanding of solidarity, which we consider right only when the solidarity is with us, but not when it is requested from us. In addition, we have a weird understanding of the responsibility we require, mainly from those who want to take a ride with us. Even though we declare it openly (mainly here in Central Europe), the rest of the continent is not unfamiliar with this philosophy.

How is, for example, with the EU’s ability to defend itself? ‘Aren’t we crucially dependent on NATO for this? However, within NATO, we still act like a back-seat passenger to the US? What can the EU do, when it has to rely only on itself in life-threatening questions? This is sadly illustrated by the refugee crisis again, and by our not-really-responsible (in)ability to protect our borders.

So, all in all: it is truly possible that, today, Central Europe is the harbinger of values that Western Europe leans towards? In reality these are not values of virtue and a future cannot be built upon them. Neither is this a reason for joy or pride.

_______________

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

The article was originally published by Slovak .týždeň. It has been translated and reprinted with permission.

RELATED ARTICLES

China: A Giant That Is Hard to Crack

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

croatia migrants

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

Classical building of Polish parliament. Warsaw in Poland.

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

People Power Reminds the Government of the Rule of Law

Belarusian Journalists Still Face Huge Problems

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

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

How Will Trump’s Visit Affect Polish Politics?

Donald trump

A Positive and Modern View of Entrepreneurship

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

Belarus 2020: Turning the Vicious Circle Into an Upward Spiral

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.

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

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

georgia emerging europe eu

Emerging Europe Back on Track to Convergence

wiiw

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

Moldova’s Briefly Suspended President is Still in Business

chisinau moldova parliament

The Sharing Economy Could Bring New Business Models to CEE

Poland’s Confusing GDP Growth

Romania Surviving the Waves of Recent Political Tsunamis in Europe

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

Stuck in Neutral: Georgia’s Constitutional Reforms

Tbilisi Parliament Georgia

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

PiS Uses Media Control to Bring Poland to Heel

Jaroslaw kaczynski pis emerging europe

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

Let’s Stop Wasting Time Redefining our Place in Europe

The Morawiecki Plan Promises a Brighter Future for Poland

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

Cheese Shop

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

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

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

Serbia’s New PM Is Cut From a Familiar Cloth

Serbian flag emerging europe

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.

Why Was Zapad-2017 So Important?

russian tank belarus zapad

Europe at Odds over OPAL and Nord Stream 2

Why is Armenia Borrowing Another 100 Million US Dollars From Russia?

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

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

Good Match But Unlikely Marriage

Will Poland Leave the European Union?

polexit

January Kicks Off an Exciting Year for Emerging Europe

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

E-lifestyle and Cyber Security: Some Views From Estonia

Cyber Security Protection Firewall Interface Concept

Is there any prospect of ‘Polexit’?

poland european union polexit

Regional Relations in the Western Balkans: Moving Beyond Folklore

Bosnia and Herzegovina flag with Serbia flag, 3D rendering

Outsourcing in Germany: Stop Talking at and Start Talking to

‘Traditional Values’: A Potent Weapon Against LGBT Rights

gay rights putin

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

The EU’s Benign Neglect Of Eastern Europe

Macedonia’s Controversial Coalition Government

SKOPJE MACEDONIA emerging europe

Azerbaijan: The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Nothing

Baku

Moldova Falls Victim to Politicising

moldova emerging europe

Global Expansion in the Digital Age

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

History as Destiny? Institutional Erosion in Ukraine and Poland

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

Can Armenia Keep a Foot in Both Camps?

European union armenia russia emerging europe

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

CEE-Benefits and Disadvantages of Joining the Eurozone

forint zloty euro

Ex-Transition Economies’ FDI Recovery

dollar euro fdi

Adam Smith’s Warning for Poland

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

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

deloitte fdi poland

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

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

After Its Significant Rise the Georgian Economy May Now Fall

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

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Moves from Frozen to Kinetic

Nagorno-Karabakh

Ukraine’s Economic Recovery: Good, But Slow

ukraine money

Europe Needs To Be More Proactive In Embracing Armenia

Defending EU Values in Poland and Hungary

Eu hungary poland

The GREAT London Food Scene

Bakery in London

Czech Republic Renaming Has Real Economic Costs

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

Slovenia’s Presidential Election: Pahor Expected to Romp Home

Slovenia flag against blue sky waving in wind

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

Emphasising the Incongruence Between the V4 Countries

Macron emerging europe

European Volatility Makes Economic Development Slower for Ukraine

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

Hungary’s Nationalist Assault on Free Enquiry

victor orban ceu

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

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

The Global Outsourcing Industry — the Rise of the Phoenix

Partnership is the Key to CEE-Indian Business

Measuring Growth of Societies with GDP Alone Shows an Incomplete Picture

Are Czech-EU Relations at Breaking Point?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - 21 JUNE 2014: People on the streets of Prague, Czech Republic. Prague is one of the most visited city in Europe with over 5 million visitors every year.

Finalising the DCFTA is Expected to Bring Multiple Benefits to Ukraine

Are Labour Shortages Driving Economic Growth?

EU-CEE Is Still Growing at a Healthy Rate

Prague emerging europe

2018 Elections — Vital Decisions for Hungary’s Future

Victor Orban energing europe

How Will Poland Approach the Brexit Negotiations?

Prepare for a New Europe

The EU’s Choice: Fundamental Reform Or Disintegration

Poland Challenges the European Identity

Poland emerging europe

A New Division Between Eastern And Western Europe?

Not All Quiet on the Eastern Front

Albania’s Election Apathy

tirana albania

Old Fashioned Skulduggery Overshadows the Elections in Moldova

Czech Own Currency Insures Against Euro Losses

Euro Czech republic emerging europe

Breaking With Imitations of the Past

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

bulgaria emerging europe

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

When Neutrality Isn’t an Option

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin

Impact of Brexit on EU-CEE Not Overstated

theresa may brexit

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

Hungary and Israel: the Collision of Past and Present

Budapest synagoge

The Long Tail of Global Expansion

Euroscepticism in Serbia: An Image Problem?

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

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

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

Eastern partnership

Poland Needs to Cling to the Eurozone

zloty euro emerging europe

Polish Tax Laws — Fighting a Winning Battle Against Tax Evaders

Poland’s Drift Away From Democracy

  1. Dear Sir! As a Hungarian from Transylvania I believe that cooperation between Hungary and Slovakia is against the nature . They oppress our next of kin and anyway Slovakia already made an arrangement with Czech and Austrian in Slavkov -S3-good luck for you/them.
    Regarding the solidarity with NATO-all our occupation by the USSR from 1944-1990-we was forced only once-unfortunately against Czechoslovakia in 1968 – to act. I do not have any problems with people from Middle East , Libya and Afghanistan and I don’t want to hurt them, also I do not hate anymore the Russians to fight them and I don’t like Ukrainian that much ,who oppress their Hungarian population, to fight for them.In 1956 all the west abandoned us and prohibited the Spain to military help us, moreover we did not forget and forgive Trianon and 1947 Paris peace treaties that humiliate us , etc. In this case against who they will help us ? Slovakian, Romanians, Serbs or Ukrainians?
    Regarding the refugees – the West colonise them and exploit them-we did not. Moreover the Turkish enslaved and killed half of the Hungarian populations -for your benefit . All the foreign people who came afterwards just created problems and took 2/3 of our countries in 1918-1920, as I remember your country acted as a coloniser and also benefited from your punishment . You and other Europeans , we just consider a serious threat for my ethnic group. I want my country out of EU , and in the V4 -sorry to say that-we just have only one true friend the Polish.

Leave a Reply

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