18 | JUL | 2019
Visegrad Group: An outpost of nationalism in Central Europe
Former Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany attends a news conference after the Visegrad Group (V4) summit meeting in Visegrad, Hungary - Photo: Laszlo Balogh/REUTERS

Visegrad Group: An outpost of nationalism in Central Europe

15/03/2019
18:34
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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Born in 1991 in the old Magyar fortress town where six hundred years ago kings John I of Bohemia, Charles I of Hungary, and Casimir III of Poland held the medieval Congress of Visegrad agreeing to create new trade routes to other markets

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Born in 1991 in the old Magyar fortress town where six hundred years ago kings John I of Bohemia, Charles I of Hungary, and Casimir III of Poland held the medieval Congress of Visegrad agreeing to create new trade routes to other markets, the Group of Visegrad now represents an outpost of nationalism in the European Union.

While Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been at the forefront of the group’s opposition to EU’s immigration strategy, rejecting its quotas during the 2015 refugee crisis, ideological disagreements with Brussels over sovereignty and the rule of law are shared to a greater or lesser degree by its allies in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

The roots of the conservative approach on European integration, community law, and the independence of the judiciary carried out by the Visegrad Four or V4 lies in history since its member states have been subject to invasions and foreign intervention, trapped between powerful neighbors such as Germany and Russia.

According to its official information, “the V4 was not created as an alternative to the all-European integration efforts, nor does it try to compete with the existing functional Central European structures. Its activities are in no way aimed at isolation or the weakening of ties with other countries.”

On the contrary, it stresses, “the Group aims at encouraging optimum cooperation with all countries, in particular, its neighbors, its ultimate interest being the democratic development in all parts of Europe. In order to preserve and promote cultural cohesion, cooperation within the Visegrad Group will enhance the imparting of values in the field of culture, education, science, and exchange of information.”

Historical debt

During the end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union, the swift accession of the Central European countries to EU membership was considered a logical outcome, due to the struggle against communism conducted by its leaders—Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa, for instance—, a sense of historical debt from the Western European nations, and the geopolitical objectives of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Today, many diplomats in Brussels are asking themselves behind the scenes if that was the right decision —the Visegrad Group joined the European Union in 2004 along with other seven members of the former Eastern Bloc, Cyprus, Malta, and Slovenia—, without the time needed to allow these countries to develop solid democratic institutions and a functional market economy.

Even worse, they say, V4 policies are inspiring others in Europe.

There is no doubt that its blend of nationalism, traditionalism, and Christianism is attractive for the populist, anti-globalization Italian leader Matteo Salvini.

For his part, the President of the new right-wing Spanish party Vox, Santiago Abascal, applauded the imposition of a 25% tax on NGOs “that promote illegal immigration” in Hungary, and vowed to emulate the measure, “when the Spanish government would rely on our votes.”
 

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Editing by Sofía Danis
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