The Visegrád Group is a triumph of European partnership. Its four member states — Poland, Hungary, Czechia and Slovakia — have supported each other’s common interests for centuries. These four nations also represent ideal partners for our country, Great Britain, as we enter a post-Brexit world.
Historically, the Visegrád Four partnerships have proved very rewarding, expanding trade opportunities and challenging the hegemony of Western European powers. Britain has many reasons to pay attention. The Visegrád nations’ once ironclad political partnership with Germany is faltering and now, post-Brexit, it is in Britain’s utmost interest to act decisively. We can position ourselves as the key Visegrád partner by engaging our significant military and energy industries. Direct engagement with Visegrád countries may now be the surest way for Britain to return its influence to continental Europe — this time on our own terms and to our supreme benefit.
Polish GDP shows highest growth in history
Poland’s GDP in the second quarter of 2021 grew by a massive 10.9 percent compared to the year-over-year 0.9 percent decrease in the first quarter
There are, however, many in Britain who may be unfamiliar with what the Visegrád Four stands for and why we should pursue closer relations with this region of Europe.
The group itself was launched in 1991 as an alliance of four struggling and aspirant post-communist states. Their subsequent economic development led to EU membership in 2004, and the Visegrád’s economies have since trounced Europe’s most formidable growth figures. All four Visegrád countries are now impressively prosperous, with Poland soon to join the world’s twenty largest economies and Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary close behind. In population size, the Visegrád Group is roughly equivalent to the United Kingdom, and much like the U.K., the Visegrád countries greatly value autonomy. In these four countries, EU biases against nuclear energy are roundly dismissed; they have totally rejected Brussels’ refugee quotas and, with Slovakia’s exception, the captive eurozone currency.
Among the four Visegrád nations, cultural and societal similarities run deep, as all are proud members of the distinct and important Central European civilization. They cooperate on the timely issues that matter most: energy, economy, and military defense. The partnership focuses with particular attention to energy, a rather challenging topic for a region heavily dependent on Russian gas, and they are seeking to expand into nuclear, solar, and wind energy, along with diversifying their natural gas sources.
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The Visegrád Four countries of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are joined by Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia in rejecting migrant quotas
The question then becomes how Britain can both position itself as a partner within this alliance and benefit from the economic growth and dynamism these countries offer.
We can achieve this through a combination of direct investment and political engagement; as for an example, Visegrád’s aforementioned energy problems are partially resolvable through upgrades in renewable energy. The UK has already positioned itself as the undisputed global leader in wind energy. In 2020, we satisfied an astonishing 24 percent of our energy needs with wind. And while the Visegrád nations may not have the North Sea at their disposal, their appetite for renewable energy sources like wind would serve the dual purpose of bolstering British industry and advancing our regional security interests.
The Visegrád Group is a rising economic power, offering foreign investors an ideal geographic location for technology and manufacturing jobs in continental Europe. The Visegrád nations also offers extremely competitive human resources at costs that challenge those of Western Europe. Hungary, Czechia, Poland, and Slovakia also lack the Brexit-inspired spite that continues to animate and motivate certain EU member states. These four Central European countries appreciate other countries that seek mutual economic and security interests at no cost to their own autonomy. Thus, it is the ideal place to anchor Global Britain’s continental strategy.
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On its own, Visegrád often struggles with the inflow of foreign direct investment necessary to sustain growth in technology and industry. Already, Poland, Czechia, and Hungary form an important axis of British trade — collectively, they are our 10th largest trade partner.
In a strategic sense, the Visegrád EU Battlegroup is on the front lines of Europe’s escalating rivalry with Russia. The Russian-Belarusian harassment of the EU border, via an artificial migrant crisis in Poland, is a recent example of growing demand for military support in the region. When Brussels failed to deliver adequate support, help arrived from Britain. Britain’s armed forces, and world-class armaments industry, is in a position to positively contribute to the Visegrád Battlegroup’s defense needs.
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Germany’s conformist left-liberal media landscape is generally supportive of any punitive action taken against Hungary and Poland, but a number of Der Freitag’s articles have harshly criticized the EU’s approach to both countries
Britain can thus position itself as a conduit between Visegrád’s vast potential and the wider world, a position of supreme importance as Germany fails to satisfy their basic regional interests. Helmut Kohl once remarked, upon the reunion of his own country, that Germany’s political future depended on a good standing with their eastern neighbors. Apparently, his successors did not listen. German relations with the Visegrád Group have not reached such lows in my living memory. Among other developments, the now nearly completed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and the shameful Polish-Belarusian border crisis, have demonstrated Germany’s inept continental leadership.
Britain ought to pay closer attention. If counted as a single entity, Visegrad would be the twelfth largest economy in the world—nearly equivalent to Russia itself.
We have an ideal opportunity on our hands. By no misstep of our own, the Visegrad group is in need of a strong, reliable—and external—partnership. It is all the more imperative for Britain to expand its engagement with the region.
Britain is no longer subject to the European Union. Our islands are exactly where they should be: severed from the mainland but still close enough to lead regional coalitions as we build our future around a Global Britain.
Daniel Kawczynski is the U.K. Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham.