Although the countries of the Visegrad Group joined the EU at the same time, ten years of their membership tell very different stories. This was a conclusion of panellists at the V4 and Germany: Towards a stronger alliance? debate organised by Central European Policy Institute (CEPI), the member of Strategy Council, on 10 June in Bratislava.
During the event, a series of four new papers on Visegrad countries after 10 years in the EU published by the German think tank DGAP was presented to the attendees. The paper on Slovakia was coordinated by CEPI.
Daniel Hegedűs, Associate Fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), has pointed out that Hungary is clearly not a winner of the last 10-15 years, as it has lost its starting position in economic competitiveness relative to the other countries in the region. He has added that the level of euroscepticism in domestic politics is close to the most Eurosceptic countries.
Vít Dostál, Research Center Director of the Association for International Affairs (DGAP), has said that the new government is expected to have a different perspective on the EU issues than the previous one but the priorities, such as a liberal approach to the internal market, will remain. Recently, energy security has become an important issue too.
Vladimír Bilčík, Senior Researcher at the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, has mentioned that Slovakia has not had a strategic debate on the EU for maybe 12 years. “The debate is only about distributional issues such as structural funds or bailouts,” added Mr. Bilčík.
The panellists have also addressed the relationship of the Visegrad Group with Germany. Mr. Hegedűs reckons that the Germany policy of “Russia first” is not sustainable anymore in Europe. “Germany should realise that the Visegrad Group, if seen as a single unit, is a more important trading partner for Germany that Russia,” added Mr. Hegedűs. He believes that this should be a new narrative in the V4-Germany relationship. He has added that in the issues of energy security and diversification of resources, V4 and Germany could build a common platform. Mr. Hegedűs sees Hungary and Slovakia as better partners for Germany than Poland which focuses more on hard security.
Mr. Dostál followed up by saying that the expectation of the Czech Republic is that the German policy will not enhance the division between countries in the Eurozone and outside of it. He mentioned a shift in the government policy that prioritises Germany over the V4 countries, particularly Poland.
According to Mr. Bilčík, Slovakia is too small for Germany to play any important role in its foreign policy but it’s seen as an ally in certain areas, e.g. in the Eurozone. He believes that institutional issues in the EU, such as the process of forming the new European Commission, will be a test of the relationship between the V4 countries and Germany.
The event was organized with the support of the International Visegrad Fund.