In a recent interview, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán expressed his view that the Visegrád Four countries of Hungary, Poland, Czechia, and Slovakia, should find their own voice and create a political counterweight in the European Union dominated by the Franco-German alliance. He has also expressed the view that Europe’s indigenous culture rooted in Christian values will survive and thrive in the Central and Eastern European region, while the West will be dominated by Islam.
His former counterpart and long-time political critic, former Slovakian Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda (1998-2006), has reacted to the above thesis by saying that creating a direct counterweight to the Franco-German cooperation would be damaging because such a goal would not contribute to the spirit of European unity, but would instead weaken it.
Dzurinda has implicitly criticized Orbán for pursuing a form of national “egoism” that prevents the Visegrád countries to act in unison. He has named some examples, such as the fact that Hungary has not expelled any Russian diplomats unlike other V4 countries over the munition warehouse explosion in Czechia as well as Hungary’s reluctance to criticize China for its human rights record, or for Hungary trying to block European recovery funds being tied to the rule of law.
Dzurinda has called the EU a “blessing” for Slovakia but warned against some attempts by EU institutions to take away powers from member states and interfere in matters of national, cultural or religious identity. In his view, the influence of progressives and their political correctness should be rolled back. Yet, he also warned against a polarized view of a “decadent West” on the one side, and a “sunny and happy East” on the other.
In his view, this concept is unrealistic, and it brings divisions into the EU, even though he claims such a depiction could play well among supporters of Orbán.
Only hours after the publication of Dzurinda’s objection, Orbán had posted his reply on the official website of the Hungarian prime minister. He claims that the V4 countries have not achieved their goals in finding a proportionate realization of their goals in the European Union, and claims that Central European nations are discriminated against within its institutions. This, he says, will not change until the V4 countries fail to stand up for their own interests more emphatically.
In his reaction to Dzurinda, Orbán lays out a number of examples in which their region is still not on par with Western European countries. For instance, the European common market brings €1,074 in extra revenue for a French citizen, €1,046 EUR for a German, while only €408 for a Hungarian citizen. Furthermore, when one compares the amount of money that Central European countries receive from European development funds with the profits that are exported from their countries by Western investors, then the deficit comes to 80 percent to Hungary’s disadvantage, and in Slovakia’s case the number is over 90 percent.
Orbán also lists examples when the Central-Eastern region was put under pressure by vested interests of the major European powers. The European mobility pack, for instance, has resulted in an enormous loss for the Eastern transport and logistics sector, the brain-drain of graduates and qualified workers towards Western markets or, perhaps most notably, migrant quotas that are being forced on the region by countries with multi-ethnic societies.
Orbán concludes his reply with a question to the former Slovak PM: “Dear Mikuláš, should we not behave with others from the West like an equal member state? Is it not time for organizing ourselves and to stand up for our interests? Why should we remain the EU’s suckers? Slovaks and Hungarians deserve more than this.”
Three other former Slovak prime ministers were also asked by the authors of the original Orbán interview as to what they think about his views concerning a Central European cooperation. One of them, Peter Pellegrini (2018-2020), was overwhelmingly critical of Orbán’s vision, but the other two, Robert Fico (2006-10 and 2012-18) and Ján Čarnogurský (1991-1992), were in favor of amplifying the voice of the region within European structures.