V4 Dead or Alive

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

29 September 2013

The V4 Group has been proclaimed dead so many times that we are often surprised to find it still alive.

Built on a long tradition of failures to integrate the kingdoms, provinces and eventually nation states of this region, the Visegrad has proven particularly resistant to Cassandran prophecies. Ironically, Stalin’s motto (stolen from Nietzsche) appears to hold in this periphery of his former empire: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Forged during the so-called second wave of democratization to strengthen the European integration, Visegrad was instantly consumed by differentiating processes,the most significant symbol of which was the Velvet Divorce of Czechs and Slovaks. Therefore, many proclaimed it dead or incapable: of attaining its goals in its infancy. In the early 1990s, Gyorgy Konrad claimed that the region could never integrate with the rest of the continent, while Adam Michnik described it as an unfulfilled dream of regional sovereignty. A former prime minister from one of the participant countries even called it an “unnecessary experiment”, favoring broader economic cooperation (CEFTA) to institutionalization of the Visegrad Group. Remarkably, these claims were eventually rendered invalid.

First came the integration of the whole region into the economic and security structures of the West. Second, diplomatic practice kept alive channels of consultation, which slowly built confidence in the V4 framework among elites. Then, the International Visegrad Fund became a useful tool for nurturing the dissident dream of Central European civil societies coming together for common goals and reflection. Lastly, the gas crisis of 2009 raised awareness about very pragmatic goals related to energy security in the region and on the continent as a whole. No wonder policymakers became overly enthusiastic, going so far as to propose a military battlegroup unit of the V4 in 2011.

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