Visegrád at 30: is the alliance still relevant today?

On 15 February 1991, when it was clear that the Warsaw Pact was coming to an end, the then presidents of Poland (Wałęsa), Czechoslovakia (Havel) and Hungary (Antall) met in Visegrád, Hungary with the objective of forming a new alliance and joining the EU and Nato together. In recent times the V4 have formed a tight bloc in the EU, particularly in the area of migration policy. The press takes stock of the alliance's relevance in today's context.

Open/close all quotes (PL) /

Finally actors in their own right again

The Visegrád countries share a common destiny that Western Europe has a hard time grasping, points out:

“In the 20th century, decisions about the future of Europe were mainly made in capitals such as Washington, Moscow, London, Paris and Berlin. Over the decades, it became almost a matter of course that no voices could be heard from the region between Russia and Germany. The last such centre of power in the vicinity was Vienna, but the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy ended all that. As a consequence, the nations of Central Europe have been treated as objects of international politics rather than as actors in their own right. ... For this reason the Central European countries share a common destiny, as well as a common culture and soul.” (PL) /

A guarantor of security pays tribute to everything the historical meeting of Visegrád paved the way for:

“In July 1991 Václav Havel organised a conference in Prague at which the Warsaw Pact was dissolved. On 6 October 1991, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia declared at a second summit that joining the North Atlantic Alliance would be the best guarantee for their security. ... It was the first event of its kind to call for former communist states to join Nato. ... And with the immigration crisis, the Visegrád Group, after years of geopolitical dormancy, once again became an important entity in the EU.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

Don't treat countries as a bloc

Not much is left of this alliance, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle's Romanian service notes:

“On the whole it can be said that Slovakia and, for the most part, the Czech Republic have now said farewell to the Orbán-driven Visegrád agenda. They would probably stick to their previous position on the migration issue, but that would be it. All that remains of the Visegrád cooperation is a Warsaw-Budapest axis - and even that is nowhere near as strong as it seems. In Brussels, however, they should neither sit back and relax nor be complacent. From 30 years of Visegrád the EU can draw a lesson for its neighbourhood and enlargement policy: namely that it is more effective not to treat the countries of a region as a unit. And above all, it is more sustainable to negotiate with them on an equal footing.”

Landesecho (CZ) /

Just a fig leaf for anti-democracy alliance

The Prague-based German-language newspaper Landesecho does not have a good word to say about Visegrád:

“Today, the alliance that was founded to defend democracy and the western orientation of East-Central Europe is the complete opposite, a fig leaf for the liquidation of democracy in Poland and Hungary. And in the Czech Republic, Visegrád supports the undemocratic behaviour of President Zeman and the government of oligarch Babiš. Visegrád, once a name with positive connotations, is something to be ashamed of today. It is an example of how the return of our part of the continent to democratic Europe has failed. What remains of democracy is a heap of rubble, similar to the ruins of Visegrád Castle.”

Mladá fronta dnes (CZ) /

Valuable despite all the differences

Mladá fronta dnes replies as follows to those in the Czech Republic and Slovakia that want an end to the alliance:

“Of course, the rule of law in Hungary and Poland is not faring very well today. Nevertheless such concerns are irrelevant in the context of the long-term horizon development of our geopolitical interests and relationships in Central Europe. Our strategic allies are not the current governments, but the countries themselves - Poland and Hungary. ... In addition, in recent years we've become too used to measuring the success of the group on the basis of its joint influence within the EU. Foreign policy is only one dimension of the project. Let's not forget the civil society dimension of Visegrád.”