sexta-feira, 16 de setembro de 2016
Visegrad’s illusory union
Visegrad’s illusory union
As bromance stirs between Poland and Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia quietly build ties with Berlin.
9/16/16, 5:30 AM CET
BRATISLAVA — The four Visegrad countries have of late been seen as an exception to the disunity across the European Union, and plan to use Friday’s EU leaders summit in the Slovak capital to push for a rethink of the way the EU functions after Brexit.
Not so fast. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — so often lumped together in a Euroskeptic club hostile to closer EU integration, wary of domination by big Western European countries like Germany, and wary of accepting migrants, especially Muslims — are themselves riven by tensions. Their own disunity makes it harder for the Visegrad Group to assert itself at the EU level.
The loudest of the so-called V4 members, Poland and Hungary, garner most of the headlines even as the Czechs and Slovaks quietly cling ever closer to neighboring Germany. Both Budapest and Warsaw are now ruled by right-wing nationalist parties that have found increasing ideological support in one another.
The ties were obvious earlier this month at an annual regional economic forum held in Krynica, a resort town in Poland’s southern Tatra Mountains. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán received a “man of the year” award, and used the venue to lay out his thinking on Europe’s new direction, and Central Europe’s role.
Significantly, Robert Fico and Bohuslav Sobotka, the Slovak and Czech prime ministers, weren’t around when Orbán took to the forum’s main stage with Jarosław Kaczyński, Poland’s most powerful politician and the Hungarian’s ideological soul mate. The pair let their bromance come to full flower, lavishing each other with compliments.
26th Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdroj
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (R) and Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jarosław Kaczyński, (L) attend a debate ‘Europe after Brexit’, during the XXVI Economic Forum in Krynica-Zdroj, southern Poland, September 6, 2016 | Darek Delmanowicz/EPA
Even though Slovakia and the Czech Republic formally form a bloc together with Poland and Hungary, there is little appetite for ship-rocking in either Prague or Bratislava.
Czechs and Slovaks are much keener than Poland on building strong ties with Germany — their key economic and political ally — and both worry about being left on the sidelines if the EU consolidates itself in reaction to the threat posed by Brexit.
While Orbán calls for a counter-revolution, Ivan Korčok, the Slovak state secretary for EU affairs, told POLITICO that there is a need for a “deeper reflection process.” Sobotka said he “fears trenches between West and East.”
For its part, Slovakia, the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, is the only Visegrad Four member in the eurozone, and as a result more exposed to continued EU turmoil. The country’s status as the world’s largest per capita car manufacturer helped draw a new investment by Jaguar Land Rover, adding to car plants owned by Volkswagen, Hyundai and PSA Peugeot Citroën. They stand to benefit if manufacturing flees the U.K. in the wake of a Brexit.
“Britain is leaving the European Union, but we certainly will not depart from Europe,” said Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth, during a groundbreaking ceremony at the new factory.
Although Fico may well have personal affinities for the Orbán-Kaczyński line, he oversees a three-party coalition government and policy has not moved in step with the Warsaw-Budapest axis. The Slovak prime minister has been outspoken on refugees, but moderated his populist stance after March elections and as the country took over the rotating EU presidency in July.
A Visegrad meeting on February 15, 2016. The group consists of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia
“Migration is a phenomenon we have to see with a longer term view,” Korčok said.
Four very different countries
There may be strong regional unity on the issue of refugees and migrants, and opposition to Brussels mandates on renewable energy, but not much else. In other political, social and foreign policy areas, there are more differences than similarities.
Poland has restrictive abortion laws and there is pressure in the Polish parliament to tighten them even more, while the rest of Visegrad is relaxed about the issue. The Czech Republic permits medical marijuana and decriminalizes possession of small amounts for personal use. Poland’s health minister recently moved to block medical marijuana altogether, calling it a “deadly drug.”
The Czechs allow “registered partnerships” for gays and the Constitutional Court struck down a ban on adoption of children by members of same-sex couples in June. Hungary permits civil unions, while Poland grants very few rights. In a recent report by equal rights organization ILGA-Europe, Poland was found to be one of the three worst EU countries in which to be gay.
Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group countries (L-R) Slovakia’s Robert Fico, Czech Republic’s Bohuslav Sobotka, Poland’s Beata Szydło and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán pose for a photo prior to their meeting in Warsaw on July 21, 2016 | Janek Skarzynski/AFP via Getty Images
Poland is one of the most religious countries in the world, the Czech Republic the least, the other two are somewhere in the middle — although Orbán has framed his anti-migrant crusade in terms of defending a Christian civilization.
Historic memory and national myths are also very different across the region. The Czechs try not to think about it at all, politically incorrect nostalgia for the collaborationist wartime regimes bubbles under the surface in Hungary and Slovakia. Meanwhile, Poland’s Law and Justice builds a national mythology of wartime anti-German resistance — feeding a suspicion of today’s Germany as well.
There is also dissonance over Russia. Poland is suspicious and the main driver of getting a more-or-less permanent NATO presence in Central Europe. Orbán has called for an end to EU sanctions against Russia, and Russia is financing a nuclear power project in Hungary. Again, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are somewhere in the middle.
With the EU (minus the U.K.) set to gather in Bratislava, divisions within the V4 are at least as evident as a purported divide between Eastern and Western EU members.
“Without naming things by their proper name, I don’t think we can surge forward together,” Korčok said of the upcoming summit debate.