Keywords: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, V4, Visegrad group, Visegrad countries, Visegrad brand, Visegrad message, geo-branding
How can a group intentionally avoid institutionalized and all-encompassing collaboration and effectively represent itself over three decades at the same time? Over the 30 years, self-determination of the V4 and its image towards the international community has moved in a completely opposite direction: it started as an “eminent candidate aiming to rejoin to Western structures”, however in the past 15 years the V4 became a Euro-Atlantic ally emphasizing the importance of its sovereignty. In context of the EU foreign policy, the V4 acts as an excellent role model for the EaP, however in case of other EU policies, such as migration, the Group appears as the rebellious Cooperation towards EU unity. Areas of consistent image building belong to the fields of soft power, emphasizing the common cultural image and touristic attractiveness of the Visegrad Group countries.
In 1991, after freshly regaining their independence, the former socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe declared their mutual commitment toward joint (re)integration to the Western political, economic and security structures by signing the Visegrad Declaration. “Visegrad” – the chosen name of the cooperation, echoed the centuries-old common historical tradition of the founding countries symbolized by the royal convention between Bohemia, Hungary and Poland in 1335.[i] In the first half of its history, the Group was tent to form an image identifying itself as a single region with equally developed economies and shared cultural heritage. The catalyst of creating the V4 image was the recognition that Visegrad counties are stronger together and “that together their voice is better heard”[ii] in shaping favourable position during NATO and the EU accession process.
[i] Rácz, György. “The Congress of Visegrád in 1335: Diplomacy and Representation.” The Hungarian Historical Review, vol. 2, no. 2, 2013, pp. 261–287. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43264435. Accessed 13 May 2021.
[ii] The Visegrad Group – A Central European Constellation, Bratislava, 2006.
https://www.visegradgroup.eu/download.php?docID=81 (13.05.2021) p. 49