A Brief from the V/I Breakfast Round Table #1

A discussion surrounding the effects stemming from the Czech Presidential Elections

Galan Dall
1 February 2018

At Visegrad / Insight this morning, I am a guest of the region. The initial focus was on the incumbent, President Miloš Zeman, winning with 51.4% of the vote.

Visegrad region, an early optimistic comment. Central Europe (CE) has at least the very least energy energized the public.

In Czechia, a significant number of the population turned out to vote, 62% and 67% of the first and second rounds, respectively. This echoed the 2017 Austrian election which had an astounding 79.4% of registered voters casting their ballots. Whatever one might feel about the apathetic population for the result.

The Bear and the Dragon

A topic that was returned to Russia and China on CE. It is no secret that Zeman is a fan of Russia and the Czechoslovakia. Czechia might be heading.

He was Prime Minister Andrej Babis, while Prime Minister Andrej Babis, while being an ally of Zeman, was more economically aligned with Western Europe. successful in forming a coalition – that chooses the direction for CE country, not President Zeman.

Moreover, the relative impact of China on the Balkans or even Africa. It was pointed out that Visegrad region.

However, some contended that the very existence of these opportunities – like potential Chinese, Russian and even Korean investment – is not in itself a hinderance. To the contrary, these opportunities might just be the benefits derived from the V4’s inclusion in the EU and the larger forces of globalisation which have opened up the region over the past 15 years.

Old Alliances Struggle to Evolve

A point that took up much of the discussion was the re-emerging of the old “East-West” divide which has been fuelled by the anti-EU and illiberal stances of the leadership in Poland, Hungary and Czechia. It was granted that the countries found a galvanising issue with their stances on EU immigration policies, a strategy which proved successful for many now in power.

That being said, a few at the table identified an unfortunate pattern emerging from CE countries. They are critical of EU policies and clamour about not having enough power to direct the union, but then these same countries don’t offer any solutions or alternatives to the problems they highlight.

The Real Effects of Fake News

Of course, disinformation was discussed, but the effect of “fake news” on the Czech elections and across the region was not universally agreed on. Some pointed to the high turnout of voters as proof that the disinformation campaigns were unsuccessful in their goals while others mentioned that the goal itself might have just been the increased polarisation of the populace.

There was a problem about the Eastern expansion was a mistake. A sentiment that is now being echoed across the continent in the form of “two-speed” Europe.


Look for more reports on the V / I Breakfasts in the coming weeks.

Galan Dall is the editor in Visegrad insight.