Friday, 22 September 2017

HN: Czech policy's European dimension crucial amid V4's decline

ČTK |
31 August 2017

Prague, Aug 30 (CTK) - The European dimension of Czech policies will be crucial for Prague now that Slovakia says it puts joining the EU hard core above cooperation in the Visegrad Four (V4) while Poland and Hungary are seeking allies outside the EU, Adam Cerny writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) on Wednesday.

The progressing disintegration of ties among the V4 countries, undermined mainly by Hungary and Poland's deflection from liberal democracy, makes Prague think about other alternatives of regional cooperation, Cerny writes.

The recent Salzburg meeting of the Czech, Slovak and Austrian prime ministers with French President Emmanuel Macron definitely cannot be considered such an alternative. First, its timing partly resulted from Paris' effort to use a chance provided by Germany's election campaign. Second, the Czech-Slovak-Austrian-French format cannot lean on any evident tradition or clearly defined concrete interests the participants would have in common, Cerny writes.

That is why the Salzburg meeting looks like a "surrogate" aimed to present other than V4 alternative, Cerny says.

The V4, a grouping of four central European post-communist countries established in the early 1990s, has exhausted a large part of its potential by achieving its two main common goals, which was the members' accession to NATO and the EU, Cerny writes.

Since then, the four member countries' solidarity has repeatedly failed in critical moments, including the sensitive case of the migrant quotas, on which Warsaw changed its mind shortly before the EU summit's vote in 2015, Cerny writes.

The V4 saw a failure of its "joint approach" policy and showed incapable of reacting to the new development and balance of forces, he writes.

Tactical mistakes can mostly be corrected, but the V4 showed unable to find and formulate positive goals. In the beginning, even the V4's rightful criticism of the ineffective migrant quota system was presented merely in the form of negative positions.

The V4's later steps, such as its contribution to the protection of the Schengen border and the recent financial support for the Libyan border guards have only softened but could not change the previous negativist impression made by the V4, Cerny writes.

The search for other partnership formats than V4 is understandable in view of the different internal development of each of the V4 members. However, the V4 cooperation should not change to the opposite, since the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia cannot change their location in the map of Europe, Cerny writes.

Mainly Prague should keep in mind that the weakest point of the inter-war Czechoslovak Republic was its poor relations with neighbours, Cerny writes.

The European dimension of Czech policies will be the most important. In a situation where Slovakia prefers joining the euro zone to cooperating in the V4 and if Poland and Hungary are seeking allies eastwards and westwards of the EU, it would be disadvantageous for the Czechs to be a mere kibitzer who does not want to join the game but the more does he like verbally interfering in it, Cerny writes.

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