A “post-Brexit Visegrad”

By Andreas Pacher | 4 May 2016


Central Europe is “condemned to cooperate”, to paraphrase a Hungarian ambassador’s words about the Visegrad Group (or V4) – a regional cooperation comprising the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. After all, do the four countries not want to defend the blissful “benefit tourism” to the UK that their citizens enjoy? Some British tabloids may affirm that; but statistical data (presented by Paweł Wiejski) point to the fact that this alleged “benefit tourism” is quite negligible.

Balázs Gyimesi reveals trade statistics between the UK and the Central European states in an article full of outstanding insights: While the V4’s intra-EU exports comprise 75%, sometimes 80% of their total exports, the UK’s dropped from 62% in 2002 to only 44% in 2012. Step by step, the article confronts us with surprising disparities between the UK and the V4; the four Central European economies really do resemble each other so much that they are, well, “condemned to cooperate”.

But what seems so harmonious at first glance is, at a closer look, hundredfold torn. It is Darius Ruda’s merit that he reveals latent aspirations that loom among the Kashubian, the Ruthenes, the Moravians, and other ethnic minorities in the V4 countries. What seems so minor now, so marginal, so utterly forgotten, may just be waiting for the political repercussions of a possible Brexit. How will the Scots react to a Brexit? And will their reaction not wake the dormant nationalisms in Central Europe in yet another example that internal conflicts are, in reality, anything but European conflicts?

This raises the question: Does Czexit follow Brexit? It was the very Czech Prime Minister Zeman (a self-proclaimed “Euro-Federalist”) who expressly hinted towards a Czexit-referendum. One of the most popular Czech politicians, Tomio Okomura, is actively demagoguing for such a cause. An in-depth look into the Czech’s domestic politics is given by Claire Vizy’s article.

Given what is at stake – migrant workers, trade, dormant conflicts, or even a Czexit – how did the Visegrad Group (more than once said to be dead) act on the diplomatic stage after David Cameron first presented his EU reform proposals? Andreas Pacher’s article shows that the V4’s cooperation reached such a high degree that it quashes allegations of a dysfunctional V4. On the contrary, the Brexit issue propelled the V4 to the European centre stage, thus advertising for their cause, and their diplomatic success may, as a consequence, tamper their pestering Euroscepticism at home.

The distance between Visegrád and Brussels is around four times larger than the distance between London and Brussels. But such fourfold aloofness can be overridden if the four were to act together. In any way, the articles here presented show that Brexit and Visegrad are so much intertwined that it pays to dedicate oneself to some background information – and this dossier offers just as much.

Written by Andreas Pacher

In this dossier :

Crédit photo : flickr