Migration has been a favoured topic of V4 populists, which they either consider a threat to their own countries’ national identity and/or exploit for electoral opportunism. They have not been shy using extreme rhetoric with little room for political correctness.

The topic helped propel Law and Justice (PiS) into power in Poland’s 2015 Parliamentary Elections, during which Mr. Kaczyński fearmongered refugees could spread “dangerous diseases, parasites or protozoa”.

Former-PM Robert Fico also made it a key topic in Slovakia’s 2016 Parliamentary Elections. Czech PM Andrej Babiš, who won parliamentary elections in 2017 with similar anti-immigration pledges, recently made headlines stating “I went into politics mainly to look after Czech citizens. Why should we be caring for Syrian orphans?”

Likewise, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán seized the topic as well to win this year’s parliamentary elections.

Migration quagmires

However, despite the V4’s shared sceptical stance on migration, they desperately need workers for the labour markets in their booming economies. While economic growth rates in the EU has been 2% on average, the V4 had rates of 2.9% (CZ) 3.2% (HU), 3.9% (PL) and 4.2% (SL).

This economic success has made unemployment drop rapidly. While, in 2013, the V4 recorded levels of unemployment were 7% (CZ), 10.2% (HU), 10.3% (PL) and 14.2% (SK), by 2017 all but Slovakia had unemployment rates below the 5% natural unemployment rate.

However, a side-effect of the V4’s economic success has been a rise in unfilled vacancies. These have more than quadrupled in five years, driven by Czechia in particular but followed closely by Poland. Figure 3 below shows this year’s second quarter number of vacancies versus previous years.

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Robert Steenland is an Associate at the Warsaw based think tank Centre for International Relations. He holds a double master degree in European Governance (MSc) and Politics and Public Administration (MA).

Scenarios for cohesive growth

As of 2019 the negotiations about the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) will enter a critical moment. In the face of an imminent Brexit and the fallout from global turmoil, the EU has to reflect on its guiding principles and take decisions to fulfil the promise of a united Europe.

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The Visegrad/Insight is the main platform of debate and analysis on Central Europe. This report has been developed in cooperation with the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

Launched on 1 October 2019 at the European #Futures Forum in Brussels.