30/03/2021

Geopolitics

30 Years of Cooperation: Aims and Successes of the Visegrad Group

Enikő Bagoly
In the first half of its history, the Visegrad Countries’ cooperation focused on accession into Euro-Atlantic structures. An objection to the original proposed strategic goals resulted resettling the key areas of the V4 cooperation, as the new Declaration stipulates: developing cooperation within the V4 and the EU, toward the NATO and other integrational organizations and partners. By accessing to the Schengen zone, the V4 achieved advanced integration within the EU, parallelly, by launching the International Visegrad Fund, the V4 aspired to strengthening ties within the area.

Security threat, caused by the migration crisis in 2015, provided an opportunity for the Visegrad Cooperation to jointly pronounce a distinctive stance of its interests. However, during the COVID-19, the V4 countries seek to adopt a policy response at Member State level, instead of developing a common solution of the issue.

Early years – „Striving for European Integration”

Common goals, different approaches

As the Visegrad Declaration (1991) stipulates,the primary aim of the Visegrad Group was facilitating the integration of its member states into Euro-Atlantic structures (European Union and NATO) and expand economic, infrastructural and social cooperation within the region.

At this stage, the main objective of the Visegrad Cooperation was common („return to Europe”), however, the cohesion between the member states wasn’t developed enough to represent a consistent group-level argumentation. Besides, the advantages of the V4 formation were interpreted differently among member states: Poland was seeking to use it as “the instrument of balancing between Russia and Germany” while Slovakia aspired to reduce its political isolation, and the overall dynamics of the Group were significantly determined by competition of its member states for acquiring leadership. 

Early example of the Visegrad Group’s attendance on the international platform as a „support instrument" appeared in its contribution in order to release Slovakia from its political isolation between 1994-1998. Diplomatic support of the Visegrad Group facilitated a bridge for Slovakia to Euro-Atlantic institutions, at the same time contributed to shape favorable perception of the V4 format itself. Advocacy of regional solidarity and willingness toward mutual cooperation suggested a positive image of the Visegrad Group toward the EU right before the start of accession negotiations. The aforementioned example of the V4s engagement toward group solidarity has won the sympathy of individual countries, which have expressed their intention to join the Visegrad Group. The leaders of the Visegrad Group instead of expanding the existing four-country format, launched the Visegrad Plus (V4+), a platform for pursuing common foreign policy contributing to the expansion the Visegrad Group’s influence.

The most indubitable achievement at the first half of the V4 format’s history is the implementation of NATO accession (Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland joined NATO in 1999, Slovakia joined in 2004) and the EU accession in 2004 by its „big-bang enlargement”. The V4’s dual membership of the EU and NATO has enhanced the position of these countries in Europe and in the international arena as well, however, contribution of the V4 format itself toward joining to Euro-Atlantic structures was limited as each country focused on their own efforts in accomplishing NATO/EU accession.

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