According to the projections of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), V4 countries will reach 80% of the EU-15 level income by 2030. In the current paper we shall be analysing potential forecasts for the Visegrad Group in the next decades, highlighting certain trends in the economy, demography, neighbourhood policy, energy security, transportation and foreign policy.
On the 30th anniversary of the Visegrad Group on the 17th February 2021, at an event held in Cracow, Poland, the prime ministers of the four countries highlighted the historic role of the alliance, as well as its economic perspectives:
“The Visegrad Group has become recognised in Europe and globally as a reliable partner and symbol of successful political and economic transformation, an important pillar of the historical project of Europe’s reunification, as well as an example of effective regional cooperation within the European Union, contributing to its further development, including in particular policy areas, and to the continent’s economic competitiveness” – was stated in the quadrilateral declaration.
The leaders of the Visegrad countries have also declared the areas of prospective developments of the V4: enhancing cooperation in regional security, promoting the process of EU and NATO enlargement, further development of Eastern Partnerships, strengthening transatlantic relations, the restoration of the proper functioning of the Schengen Area, stemming migration flows, and the development of the energy and transport infrastructure in Central Europe, including railway and motorway transport network in the North-South axis and energy diversification.
In the following sections we shall be analysing the main goals outlined by the leaders of the V4, and draw a thorough picture of the future perspectives of the Visegrad Group for the next decades.
Demography and Economy
Demography has a strong and positive effect on the economic growth. One of the key factors of economic prosperity lies in the growing working-age population. If the population is older, on one hand there is larger pressure on the health sector and social welfare system, on the other hand, there are fewer working people in the production sector. According to different research data, 20% of the per capita economic growth in the European Union between 1955-1990 was because of the demography, and the generation of “baby boomers”. Nevertheless, the growth in productivity can be also achieved through an advance in technology, which was the drive behind economic growth in the last decades in Europe and the US. The global population growth has stopped worldwide, and we rather see the process of an ageing population.
It is bad news for the region, that most of the forecasts predict a massive population decrease in the V4 countries in the next decades. The most negative prognosis was made by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations (UN) – it forecasts a 31% population decrease in Central Europe, while the overall population of Europe will have a 16% drop by 2100. According to the forecast, Poland would be affected the most, with 40% of its population shrinking, while the population of the Visegrad countries would decrease from 63,8 million to 44 million by 2100.
The official European forecasts are much less radical: the latest, demography-focused ageing report, created every three years by the European Commission makes forecasts up until 2070, while the population forecast of Eurostat has a longer prognosis up until 2100. According to the latter, the population of the V4 countries would decrease to 50,9 million by 2100, which would be a 20% drop in the population in 80 years.
The population of Poland is affected the most in the group, according to all of the mentioned forecasts, while the rest of the countries in the V4 are positioned in the midfield among the EU-27 members. The Baltic states have the fastest decreasing population in the European Union, followed by Bulgaria and Romania.