According to a recent survey, more and more people are familiar with the V4. The majority of Visegrád 4 country citizens trust the alliance, which is referred to by experts as the economic engine of Europe. We will further elaborate on this in today’s broadcast. I wish you a good evening. Welcome. Meanwhile, at a Berlin-based event on Tuesday, Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs Miroslav Lajčák announced that if his country does not join the UN’s global migration agreement, he will resign. By phone we connect with our correspondent in Bratislava, Titusz Németh. Hello Titusz!
The minister has justified his decision by claiming that the planned agreement of the UN is only a political statement that lists the possibilities of managing migration but does not oblige the acceding countries. However, the xenophobes are making it look quite different. In the meantime, Robert Fico, President of Smer, also reacted and said that the minister must by all means remain in office. Can we say that Lajčák is blackmailing the government?
Hello, Anett! After all, this can be the case. Meanwhile, Peter Pellegrini stated in Brussels that Slovakia would not attend the summit in Marrakech if participation itself would result in any obligation for Slovakia. However, the Slovakian party has not yet fully refused to participate in the summit. Pellegrini called on Foreign Minister Lajčák and Secretary Parízek to find out what it would mean to Slovakia if it represented itself on a lower political level at the meeting and if it would voice its comments on the spot. Ultimately, Lajčák found this as an acceptable solution and stated that he does not insist that he take part in the Marrakech meeting.
Another topic that concerns Slovakia is that at the fourth meeting of the Hungarian–Slovak Joint Economic Committee, Levente Magyar, Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, spoke about the fact that Hungary and Slovakia have accomplished several achievements in their bilateral relations in recent years. Specifically, which areas did Secretary Magyar talk about, in which areas was progress made, and in which areas is a closer cooperation necessary in the future?
First of all, he was talking about transportation cooperation. As we know, in Komárom, there is a plan for a large bridge, but at the same time it is true that, although the Hungarian–Slovakian economic relationship, as well as the foreign policy within the V4, is pretty positive, Slovakia and Hungary still have disagreements that could endanger their relationship. The Slovakian law on citizenship and the Slovak language law are instances of that. Another example could be the “flag law,” which was adopted by the Slovak Parliament with a definite anti-Hungarian sentiment, and it mostly affects sports events.
We have been waiting for an agreement or resolution concerning these issues between the two countries for years. Titusz Németh from Bratislava, thank you very much for the information. Let’s return to the topic that I mentioned in the introduction. The popularity of the Visegrád cooperation is increasing. This is apparent at least from recent research carried out by the Nézőpont Institute. The awareness of the V4 in the four concerned countries is cumulatively high; 86% of the respondents had heard about the alliance before the data was collected. But, let’s see the details.
Most of the adult population in the Visegrád countries know the V4 and think that their country is better able to enforce its interests within the framework of the alliance, according to a telephone survey that was carried out in the four countries by the Nézőpont Institute. The familiarity with the Visegrád cooperation in the four countries is very high cumulatively, as 86% of the respondents had already heard about the alliance prior to data collection. The Czechs and Slovaks are the most aware of the alliance; 91% and 88% of them, respectively, had heard of the cooperation. The research also revealed areas in which the V4 citizens would like to deepen the cooperation between their respective countries. According to the respondents, the V4 countries should cooperate more closely in highway construction and scientific research, and the respondents find the coordination of tax policies the least important. But, tourism, industrial policy, and energy policy are also important points of cooperation. Visegrád citizens are confident about the development of the region. The most optimistic are the Hungarians; 49% of them think that their country will be in a better position within five years, but 34% think that the situation will deteriorate over the next half decade. An optimistic view is shared by 48% of the Czechs and 47% of the Slovaks, while in Poland 42% are optimistic and 39% are pessimistic. The majority of the population in all four states believes their countries can more effectively enforce their interests within the V4 than on their own.
In the studio I welcome today’s guests, a political scientist and the director of Médianéző, Bánk Levente Boros, and Péter Virovácz, the leading analyst at ING Bank. The introductory question is short: is the so-called V4 identity developing or has it already emerged?
In the political sense, it does seem that the V4 people are finding common ground. The “political sense” must, however, be interpreted by keeping in mind that there was government will and intent for finding common ground on the side of all the four countries and to focus on what connects them and not on what divides them. There have been periods when these countries considered the EU and NATO integration as a competition among each other, and, as the reporter said, sometimes other tensions also burdened the bilateral relations. One could also say that the picture of an external enemy is what connects these countries, but I would prefer to approach it as the V4 having a common future in mind. Definitely on the political level, but more and more so on the social level as well, an idea is being formed that we share a common historical past—we can call it the communist past or the experience and heritage deriving from that. And, we have a vision for the future, not only for the V4, but for Europe as well, which is an innovation, as a matter of fact, because nobody else has such a vision or a strategic idea for the development of the EU or European integration. Therefore, this is a lucky situation that has emerged, as we here in Central Europe not only encourage cooperation with one another, we also have a suggestion in what direction Europe should be governed in the future. This debate has reached a certain level where the V4 countries do appear as factors.
Meanwhile, we are showing the viewers, as you can see on the LED wall next to us, the results of the survey in numbers and percentages. Let me return to what we started the conversation with: does a V4 identity exist, and if so, in what form does it exist? And, the most interesting statement might be that it does exist despite the fact that the four countries have completely different political situations and completely different governments. So, let’s clarify what the V4 alliance is really about—to what extent is it an economic cooperation?
I think that economic cooperation is definitely necessary. If we look at the four countries together, they can represent a big power together in the European Union, and it is worth looking at the numbers if we want to see the position of these four countries. I will try to not overwhelm the viewers with the numbers though. The V4 countries make up roughly 13% of employment in the EU, so they do represent a decisive factor in this respect; if these countries cooperate, they can achieve certain things. From the economic perspective we can say that the V4 countries represent one of the driving forces in the EU’s economy, since with their 4–5% economic growth, they are ahead of many member states. Therefore, I think it is desirable for these countries to unite their forces and try to achieve a better bargaining power both in economic and political issues.
Let’s stop here for a moment and have a look at the future. To what extent will this economic cooperation be a Nicolae Robu and Gheorghe Falcă. (photo: Virgil Simonescu)