In the Visegrad Group there are as many differences as similarities, which contributes to the Group having a certain dynamic. The Group has recently undertaken quite a lot of successful activities or at least initiatives.
EU regional policy could be an example here, first of all, of cohesion policy and related funds, as well as structural and investment funds. The Visegrad countries are the beneficiaries of these policies. In the end all these countries supported Donald Tusk as a candidate for the European Council President. The Group is also of the same opinion on global warming and energy policy, since all the Visegrad countries agree that the planned cuts in CO2 emissions cannot be done that quickly.
Recently the most important question seems to have become immigration policy. Comments or remarks made by various EU politicians and Commissioners that Schengen must be reshaped and that all these countries which do not intend to accept migrants should get respectively less financing led to protests by Visegrad states. Then it impacted not only politics in these countries, but first and foremost led to a lot of frustration in society.
An informal EU summit was organised on 16 September 2016 in Bratislava. This summit was to a certain extent a success story for the Visegrad Group, as it resulted in creating the so-called flexible solidarity mechanism, which means that a decision was taken to take in only as many migrants as had been declared by the Member States and only as many as the Member States are potentially able to accept. Generally the Visegrad countries express a different opinion on migration and on the migration policy of the European Union. In this way we come to a point where differences are brought to light – the Treaties.
Concerns have been expressed in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, since Poland and Hungary suggested the review of the Treaties. Both countries would like to strengthen the mandate of the Member States in the Council and weaken the powers of the European Commission and other institutions. Surely it is not only the Czech Republic and Slovakia which do not want to review the Treaties – France and Germany also have their own unfavourable opinion on this project. On the one hand, because elections are to be held in both countries next year, on the other hand, because Poland and Hungary will definitely not succeed in preparing a final version of their proposal before the next summit, as for now it is only a general idea, and this is why they have so far not announced the details of this specific procedure.
The Visegrad Group is undergoing an interesting period of development, as it stands for budgets, discipline and a debt brake. Obviously this stance of the Visegrad Group is resulting in yet another dynamic development, as for example the market turmoil in Greece. We did not have to wait long for the reaction of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who underlined that the Visegrad countries would not be able to dismantle the European Union or force it to solve its problems according to the Visegrad agenda. Tsipras immediately invited representatives of Club Med (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta) to Athens. We are dealing with two opposing groups here, as Tsipras advocates for solidarity in the migration crisis, something which is rejected by the Visegrad Group. On the other hand southern countries are not supporting EU budgets discipline or austerity policy.
Time will tell as to how Poland, Czech, Slovakia and Hungary behaves based on the strategy of the Visegrad Group. Today Poland holds the presidency of the Group.