In ten years, the economic performance of the Visegard Four (V4) region — the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia — has almost doubled, and the region, with a population of more than 60 million, is projected to be an increasingly important market player within the European Union, financial journalist Csaba Szajlai writes in a column in daily Magyar Nemzet:
In recent years, growth in the V4 countries has exceeded the European Union average. While the average growth in the Union was 2.4 percent, that of V4 countries was 4.3 percent, which clearly shows the region is catching up. Thanks to better performance, the economic weight of these countries has also increased, with the economic growth of the V4 countries rising between 16 and 24 percent within the EU over the past decade. While the southern European member states as well as the British are suffering from a severe recession, a lack of reforms, a sluggish budget deficit, and high public debt, the prospects for the Central European group of countries facing the “east wind” are fundamentally encouraging. What characteristics of the region are helping underpin this growth?
In a nutshell: with the exception of Slovakia, we all use our own money, thereby taking advantage of monetary freedom and room for maneuver, which helps support our export-oriented approach. At the same time, the role of the domestic economy is also becoming more and more important. The geographical and logistical location and proximity of the region to the core of Germany is a key element, while foreign trade relations with Austria are also very good. Both economies are highly developed in both a European and global comparison and are the best market for the V4. Banks and financial service providers also settled here from the middle of Western Europe, taking advantage of a common set of values.
The Central European region has developed a lot since the fall of the communist regime. The Czechs have regained their traditionally outstanding level of economic performance that they obtained before the communist world, followed by us Hungarians. After a long time, we managed to bypass Slovakia and then Poland. However, roughly based on the EU as a whole, the region reached a level of 75-percent development in 2019, which, while still below the average level of development in Italy and Spain, is catching up at an astonishing rate compared to the 30-35 percent it was at in the 1990s. And the future promises to be encouraging: all major economic analyses estimate that the V4 member states will be able to expand beyond the EU growth average.
The wealth of Austria and Germany is also due to their strong SME sector. Although it is difficult to compare a Hungarian company with a large Western European multinational, companies operating in the V4 countries can be compared. For example, the V4 countries produce 15 percent of foreign trade turnover in Europe, so Slovak, Polish and Czech companies are in a good position in this area. We Hungarians still have a lot of potential to grow in this respect.
The legal-political-economic background of the cooperation between the V4 countries was given. As far as we know, the stakeholders signed a memorandum of understanding in Budapest in 2018: the declaration also raised the industrial policy coordination of the four countries to a higher level. In global competition, Europe needs a new industrial policy that strengthens innovation capacity, promotes the faster introduction of new technologies and encourages entrepreneurship, thus ensuring that the V4 region remains the engine of growth for the European Union.
Continuous coordination and advocacy on budgetary and other major policy issues within the community can make Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, and Warsaw bigger than their respective parts. After the crisis and the recovery, the scope of cooperation needs to be expanded, and we do not strive for a “mini-EU”, but a level of cooperation that has characterized the Franco-German axis in recent decades. This has already been recognized and the era of construction has already begun.
There are periods when everything favors this region. Go, Visegrád Four!
Title image: Škoda factory in Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic. (source: skoda-storyboard.com)