Who is kidnapping the Visegrad Group?

What the V4 Was Originally About, and How to Bring It Back

22 September 2021

In 1991, I was a student of journalism at a school where there was no one to teach journalism to. This in part was because subjects such as ‘Criticism of the Bourgeois Press’ had been abolished. Only the authors of samizdat had any practical experience of a free press but they could not teach because they were busy with the revolution. In that year, Václav Havel, József Antall and Lech Wałęsa signed the Visegrad Declaration.

They hoped that the common communist experience would unite Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary and that they would support each other on the road to Europe. They knew the historical wounds from which they bled, what they could build on and what layers of the old society still needed to be shaken off in the Visegrad Group.

They all agreed that experiences like bribing doctors, deans or ‘cabbage-oil’ sellers as well as a fear of the truth, the bending of history and the small clan of communist elites who lived in luxury were enough of a warning not to deviate from the democratic path.

Of course, they could also agree on what ‘Europe’ means. At that time, no one questioned that it was an area of free movement in which minorities and media freedom were protected, the rule of law prevailed, justice was not the privilege of the ruling class and independent courts ruled. A space where corruption is marginalised — not elevated to the level of state government.

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Beata Balogova

Editor-in-chief of SME

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