How can V4 help democracies flourish?

As the natural bridge between the East and the West, we can offer insight into many of the controversial issues dividing Europe today

Pavol Demeš
9 February 2017

A group of us who were involved in organizing the February celebration for the 25th anniversary of the Visegrad Group thought a pleasant precursor to the festivities would be to meet with students and other young citizens the day before the event.

The reasons for the meeting were varied, but it seemed appropriate to commemorate the anniversary of our partnership with a discussion which included the next generation, who must take up the charge and define the future uses of the organisation. It took place at the Charles University in Prague, a storied institution known for promoting discussion and a more fitting location for conversing about the – at times turbulent – contemporary EU and V4 issues would be difficult to find.

It also afforded the opportunity for us to deliver a report, which we had been preparing, related to these important issues of the day: migration, the refugee crisis and coordinated national policies to mention just a few. It is our feeling that the bonds that were named and solidified a quarter of a century ago are just as strong and important as they are today.

No matter the crises we are facing, there is no tendency to dissipate, dissolve or rearrange the group. Through our coordinated efforts, either nationally or regionally, we can help each other overcome issues which are splintering the base of European identity and the European project as a whole.

One of our greatest offerings to Europe is also being undermined through a series of internal and external issues; issues which have the capability of weakening the democratic forces of the civil societies in the Visegrad Group. The contribution I am referring to is that of the new, Central European narrative. As the natural bridge between the East and the West, we can offer insight into many of the controversial issues dividing Europe today.

Sadly, the current state of our political and democratic institutions is less than stellar, and this is one of the main roadblocks in our drive to become a more predominant voice in Europe. While there are times when we might disagree, largely due to differing historical perspectives, we have no desire to become isolationist or detach from the larger European framework.

Further, I do not think the Visegrad Group will destabilise the existing or future European unity, nor do I think we will build a “bad guy” reputation within the European Union. On the contrary, I think the people of the Visegrad Group value that we are part of the larger European and transatlantic family, and we will be searching to find new ways of adding value to these organisations, to protect the European project and values which we started to develop after ‘89.

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This article is taken from the book “V4 – 25 YEARS. THE CONTINUING STORY OF THE VISEGRÁD GROUP 1991 – 2016

Pavol Demeš s a Slovak expert in civil society and international relations, a non-resident senior fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Director for Central and Eastern Europe of the GMF US (2000-2010), Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of the Slovak Republic (1993-97) and Slovak Minister of International Relations (1991-92).

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