Catching up with the standard of living in Western Europe at a time when growth is made harder by restrictions resulting from EU climate policies is the key challenge for the Visegrád Group states, says former Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, who currently serves as an MEP in the European Parliament.
The former head of Poland’s foreign ministry believes that the Visegrád Four (V4) group — consisting of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia — played an important role 30 years ago when these countries worked together on the road to NATO and EU accession. In later years, the ties between these countries have become looser.
One of the reasons for that is geopolitical. Poland is far more sensitive to the threat from Russia. Another is the fact that Poland is a far larger country than any of the other three.
Nevertheless, Waszczykowski feels that the V4 group has been successful on taking common positions on key issues such as resisting the European Commission’s attempt to make Central Europe take in compulsory quotas of refugees, a stance that has now effectively become EU policy.
The region has become more integrated thanks to EU membership and shares much common history with all the countries having emerged from communist rule at the same time and joined NATO and the EU at the same time.
Asked about major challenges facing the V4 states, Waszczykowski believes that the number one goal should be for the region to align living standards with those of Western Europe. This goal has been made more difficult due to the restrictions being imposed by the EU’s climate policies, and Western Europe did not have to face such restrictions when it was developing in the 1960s and 1970s.
The second major challenge is security, especially for Poland, which borders Russia and is sensitive to that country’s increasingly imperial stance.
The third challenge Waszczykowski identifies he has labeled as “ideological”. He says it has to do with the fact that Central Europe has conservative or centrist governments and the left is not very strong, but in Western Europe, the neo-Marxist left has great influence over many walks of life. Central Europe takes a very negative view of Marxism based on practical experience and very few in the region want a return of communism, even if it takes a gentler form with a “human face”, warned the former Polish foreign minister.