Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Foreign Affairs & Defence Social Affairs: A missed opportunity for V4 to rise above themselves

Frank Markovic,

image from article, with caption: refugees


The traditional consensual nature of the EU’s decision-making has been seriously compromised by the lack of overall agreement between those in favour – the majority of countries – and those opposed to the mandatory refugee quotas.

The Visegrad Four belonged to the small group of states that opposed the quotas from the very beginning. Their stance has come at a price. The vote on Tuesday is particularly damaging for the V4, not least because it has undermined the unity of the block.

Despite its numerous declarations of support to the common position on the issue of refugees – also emphasized during the Visegrad Group Summit in Prague on September 4 as well as during the last minute meeting of the V4 Ministers on the eve of the vote – Warsaw decided to vote in favour of the quotas and against the common position previously agreed upon by all four Visegrad countries.

This move took other V4 members by surprise. It raised doubts regarding whether the cooperation in the current format will survive and to what extent Poland desires to remain part of the group.

Despite the meeting of the V4 leaders in Brussels ahead of the EU Summit on Wednesday and despite them having agreed on a common position on the migration situation, it remains to be seen whether the V4 can not only talk the talk but equally walk the walk, and whether the reassurances of Poland’s PM Kopacz regarding the unity of the block will translate into action.

On top of that, the vote in the Council on Tuesday has also meant a significant, even if temporary, loss of credibility of the V4 countries vis-à-vis their EU partners. This is particularly true for Slovakia. A traditionally reliable partner, it has put up a resistance for which it has been criticised vehemently. ...

Leave aside the fact that Slovakia is a full member of the EU – something that certain older EU members are yet to get used to – and hereby is entitled to occasional dissent without facing threats and consequences that surpass the scope of the existing remedies in the EU Treaties. Slovakia, and the rest of the Visegrad Group, have failed in public diplomacy to effectively communicate messages in a manner that would be both consistent with the demands of the domestic audience and not perceived as obstructive by other EU countries. ...

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