08/06/2021

Geopolitics

Visegrad plus: expanding alliance or a tool of advocacy?

Foreign relations and seeking partnerships with external partners have always had a significant role in the operation of the Visegrad Group, however it certainly shifted and evolved after the integration of the V4 countries into the Euro-Atlantic structure. But how Visegrad+, the foreign policy framework of the Visegrad Group can contribute to the V4’s international perception and influence and how it fosters EU integration of other countries may be its main priority

Visegrad+ definition

V4+, Visegrad plus or Visegrad+ will be used in the following as a term of the foreign policy framework of the Visegrad Group, the platform and structure of cooperation with internal partners be it EU or NATO member countries or non-members of these organizations. These V4+ partners also could be international or regional organizations (such as UN or OSCE) or other regional cooperation (Baltic Cooperation), but meetings and coordination at any level (governmental or parliamentary; prime ministers, foreign ministers, ministers and other diplomats or experts) are also considered to be under the flag of Visegrad+. In this sense Visegrad+ is used in a wider interpretation in this paper and not limited to regional or Euro-Atlantic level horizontally nor limited to just country level vertically. Although, this analysis is focused more on the cooperation between the V4 and non-EU members emphasizing the global relations and advocacy ability of the Visegrad Group.

Brief history of the V4

Visegrad Group (Visegrad Four or V4) is a Central-European regional cooperation between Poland, Czechia, Hungary and Slovakia founded in 1991. After the fall of the Iron Curtain countries from the region had a shared view that regional cooperation could bring more benefits and efficiency by pursuing a common goal: the integration into the Euro-Atlantic structure, namely the NATO and EU. The first decade of the cooperation was spent with preparations aiding the return to Europe. Through peaceful negotiations, all four counties went through a democratic political transition shifting to a free market economy in the same phase, having agreed on abandoning the Warsaw Pact and COMECOM immediately calling on Soviet troops to leave their countries territory. However, Visegrad countries did well, having built a civil society, a democratic, independent statehood based on the rule of law, respecting human rights with a western type economy. Meeting the convergence criteria of these organizations took time and because of other reasons integration was delayed. But in 1999 V4 countries could join the NATO (Slovakia in 2004) while in 2004 all four countries gained full membership in the EU which meant the “return to Europe” and full involvement to the Euro-Atlantic political, economy and security structure and circulation.

Developing foreign policy mechanisms

Foreign policy always played a main role in the V4’s operation evolving step by step over time. A new mechanism of the cooperation was formed at the end of the century which had effect on the foreign relations of the V4. The rotating presidency system was created in 1991 with new mechanisms. The president country takes over the issues of cooperation for a year, capacitating the progress of common affairs and at the same time it is the hosting country for the annual political meetings of the four Visegrad countries and with others as well. Each president country makes a program in advance in which it specifies which areas of cooperation should be more emphasized according to its own priority and discretion and in response to regional and world political events. Rotating presidency has an impact on the foreign policy of the V4 as it’s the president country that is accredited to negotiate with external partners after a joint standpoint has been established within the V4 and as it also the president country which usually serves as host for meetings between V4 and other country’s leaders at any level.[i]

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[i] Annex to the Content of Visegrad Cooperation (2002) In: Visegrad Group,
 https://www.visegradgroup.eu/cooperation/annex-to-the-content-of (2020.05.25.)

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