The Visegrad Group and the Eastern Partnership

By Andreas Pacher | 3 October 2016


The erstwhile periphery may now be labelled as "central" – but at the center of what, in the end, lies that region called ‘Central Europe’ (as asked by Claire Vizy in her article)? Lofty thoughts tell us of a history that never ends, a history that has been transforming itself into new settings for centuries, a history in which Moscow and Istanbul or Ankara wrestle over influences such that, over time, uninvited guests like Caucasian Mafiosi have become sheltered in the Visegrad countries (or V4, i.e. Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia). Her article ends with a glimpse of hope by embedding the problems into an EU-wide context which could provide a cooperative solution.

Other minorities can exert an immense potential in reshaping the attitudes of both the home country’s and the host country’s political elite. Inga Chelyadina’s article on the Hungarian minority in Ukraine depicts the dangers and opportunities that lie herein by placing this so oft-forgotten topic into the midst of regional power politics. Russian-financed Hungarian parties may usher in destabilizing discourses, confronting the Ukrainian government with difficult claims.

Such Ukrainian woes can be mitigated by the fact that it continues to be the largest recipient of Visegrad aid among the six Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, only followed by Belarus. A considerable gap divides these two from Moldova, the third largest recipient of the V4’s economic aid, while the three South Caucasian EaP-participants rank last. These numbers and graphs, as presented and commented by Balázs Gyimesi, are insightful for they allow us to assess how rhetorical commitments translate into quantifiable economic facts.

Virtually no development aid is sent to Azerbaijan; perhaps because until recently Azerbaijan seemed to have no economic struggles due to its richness in fossil fuels. The EU is now tapping Azeri gas to divert it via Georgia and Turkey into the EU. The original intent of a gas supply diversification can be questioned by the planned ‘Turkish Stream’ pipeline connecting Russia with Turkey. Such a grand gas pipeline project provokes new energy ambitions in the neighbouring Balkan countries, which have already announced an “Anti-Visegrad Alliance” to counter the V4’s efforts to keep Ukraine as a gas transit country.

What, then, is left for little Armenia, the “land of stones”? Armenian diasporic actors have recently extended their fatherland’s silent heritages into Central Europe by adding their traditional cross-stones into the urban landscapes of the V4. It is in these so-called khachkars where the material and the spirit interact in a counteraction against the powerful weight of Azerbaijan’s gas-geopolitics. This “khackar diplomacy” prevents Armenia from fading out of the public’s vision by breeding new perceptions that will persist as long as stones (in contrast to fossil fuels which can deplete within a few decades or years).

V4, EaP, EU, Russia and Turkey – so many regions coalesce into this dossier which highlights various, perhaps overly uneasy aspects of the relationships between the ‘New Europe’ and the newer so (if at all). Perhaps this little collection of articles may serve as an aid in responding to the question: At the center of what, in the end, lies Central Europe?


In this dossier :