Normative aspect: D-
Final mark: D+
The Visegrad Group (V4) has become a symbol of non-solidarity in Europe. This is largely the result of its stance on the refugee crisis and reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which only served to deepen the divide between EU Member States. Although V4 countries continued to develop extensive communication at both a political and working level, the group had little to boast of in terms of either intra-Visegrad or traditional foreign-policy issues, apart from its positive role in the negotiation of the February agreement with the United Kingdom. The Czech Republic did not make any discernible contribution to the preparation of a positive and constructive agenda for the Visegrad Group.
The Visegrad Group’s political profile within the European Union was largely shaped by its position on migration. It also made a major contribution to the attainment of an agreement with the United Kingdom during the February meeting of the European Council. There was no discernible progress in other intra-Visegrad and foreign-policy matters.
The Visegrad Group consolidated its position on the Union’s asylum and migration policy. The V4 priority was border protection, expressed in particular by proposals to set up a “backup border system”. By promoting the closure of the Balkan migration route, the Visegrad Group did not contribute to the search for a pan-European solution to the problem of illegal migration, which was only found following an agreement with Turkey. The group did not show solidarity towards Greece and plunged refugees on the border between Greece and Macedonia into an oppressive situation. The Visegrad position stemmed from a refusal to revise the CEAS, which would have resulted in greater harmonisation of asylum and migration policy and established mutual solidarity between Member States, including the introduction of a permanent mechanism for the relocation of asylum seekers within the EU during a crisis. Even after its V4 presidency came to an end, the Czech Republic was the driving force behind the Visegrad Group’s dismissal of relocation mechanisms. In September, the Visegrad Group came up with the proposal of “flexible” – and subsequently “effective” – solidarity. However, this initiative lacked any tangible commitments for individual countries and made no headway in Europe as a whole.
Despite increasing its political contacts and expanding mutual and sectoral cooperation, the V4 was unable to boast any success that would have benefited both the group itself and the EU. In matters related to EU enlargement and the Eastern Partnership, once traditionally strong areas of V4 policy, the group’s members, including the Czech Republic, are no longer major players. Although the V4 maintains an interest in these areas, it is no longer as vociferous about them in the scope of European policy. Efforts to harmonise the position of Visegrad countries ahead of the informal Bratislava summit of the European Council in September only produced a sketchy joint declaration on the EU’s reflection process.
It was only at the February European Council that the V4 played a positive role. This was in relation to negotiations on the agreement concerning the UK’s future position within the EU, where the V4 successfully defended its priorities (especially the free movement of people within the EU) and also helped find an acceptable compromise. The Czech Republic played a significant role here as the country holding the V4 presidency.
In terms of defence cooperation, a joint Visegrad position was found prior to NATO’s Warsaw Summit. On the other hand, the Visegrad EU Battlegroup, which was on standby in the first half of the year, did not lead to the creation of a unit that could continue such activities. This was partly due to the Czech Republic’s limited military capabilities.