V4 was as much about transformation towards Western democracies and economies as it was about enhancing the security and long-term stabilisation of the region
The Visegrad Group was formed in the 1990s to eliminate the remnants of the communist bloc in Central Europe, to overcome the historic animosities between Central European countries, to accomplish a social metamorphosis and to join both the EU and NATO. So, Visegrad was as much about transformation towards Western liberal democracies and functioning market economies as it was about enhancing the security and long-term stabilization of the region by integrating it with the existing Western structures.
Today, integration with the EU and NATO has been formally achieved and with the growing number of internal and external challenges, the significance of this membership should not be underestimated. Also, the founding idea of Visegrad – to stabilise liberal societies and democracies – remains crucial, in particular as the current governments in Hungary and Poland are challenging this assumption.
In terms of geostrategic orientation towards the West, the EU and NATO oppose Moscow’s efforts to undermine the Western rule-based security order and the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. Of the four Visegrad members, only one country, Hungary, entertains a close relationship with Moscow though it still upholds sanctions.
With regards to the migration crisis, the Visegrad countries’ decision to close national borders and refusal to join the quota system for the relocation of refugees has brought about the question of whether the V4 understands itself as a regional subgroup that functions to strengthen the EU and its values, or whether it undermines the core principles and joint solutions of the union.
Thus, the migration crisis has highlighted the need and importance for all EU member states to revisit and rebuild a shared understanding of their joint principles, to exemplify European solidarity, to define which expectations are acceptable and which too burdensome for our European societies and to underline when it is necessary to take external action.
This article is taken from the book “V4 – 25 YEARS. THE CONTINUING STORY OF THE VISEGRÁD GROUP 1991 – 2016“
Daniela Schwarzer is European Affairs expert, Think Tank Director at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik – German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)