The Four Visegrad Countries: More Than It Seems

Analysis by Sándor Gallai 

 

The migration crisis, along with the backwardness and the inefficiency of the European Union in handling the crisis increased the relative political weight of the Four Visegrad Countries (V4), resolute and united in this issue. The Visegrad brand came to be well-known, and migration policy became the subject of criticism. Those who view the Visegrad cooperation as mere declarations of diplomacy, protocol coordination and politically irrelevant joint projects are amiss. The V4 cooperation should not be overvalued, but it must be recognized that by joint action, the Visegrad countries can shape EU policy substantially as opposed to being mere complying executives.

Reestablishment: together, if the national interest calls for it

When the modern Visegrad cooperation was launched in 1991, the leaders of the – then V3, due to Czechoslovakia – states set out five basic objectives:[1]

  • Restitution of state independence, democracy and freedom;
  • Elimination of all aspects of the totalitarian system;
  • Construction of a parliamentary democracy and the government of laws, respecting human rights and freedoms;
  • Creation of a market economy;
  • Involvement in the European political, economic, security and legislation system.

Except for the last one (involvement in Europe), these objectives were tied to the change of the regime for the most part, to its economic and political aspects, and could be attained without regional institutional cooperation. In consequence, not these, but the European and Euro-Atlantic integration was considered the cooperation’s most important objective and became a key priority in the foreign policy strategies of the participants following the regime change. Thus, harmonizing “their activities to shape cooperation and close contacts with European institutions” took first place in this declaration among the steps to take in realizing the basic objectives. The seven additional steps included aiming for free trade agreements in economy, supporting the development of lower level, non-governmental relations, the synchronized development of their infrastructure networks, and extending their cooperation to other (cultural, ecological, and minority protection) fields.

The main forms of the Visegrad cooperation coming into effect included the highest level political declarations and meetings, various lower level coordination, regular information exchange, joint professional programs, research and other projects. Although several proposals were made for setting up joint institutions, for a while only one of them came to fruition, the International Visegrad Fund, financing cultural and academic cooperation. Then the year before last, a V4 battle group was established, this year might see the launch of a joint news channel built on cooperation between regional TV stations, and a regional development bank is also foreseen.[2] However, joint political action was greatly hindered right from the start, stated in the declaration itself, namely that synchronizing European cooperation was to be based on the (national) interests of the individual states. And national interests more often lead to rivalry than to cooperation.

Country rivalry along common objectives

EU membership, the symbolic consummation of “returning to Europe”, which some view[3] as the irreversible change of the post-communist regimes, required the applicants to settle the relationship with their neighbors, establish a democratic political system that honors minority rights, build a functioning market economy that can cope with international competition, implement the European community law, and demonstrate the ability to fulfill the duties of membership.[4] In most cases, applicants handled their existing conflicts with neighbors by entering into basic contracts; they adopted a new constitution or extensive constitutional amendments; provided legal and institutional guarantees for the rule of human and minority rights, for the division of power, for equal rights, for clean and free elections; made their currency convertible; restructured ownership and guaranteed the protection of private property; liberalized the prices, the wages, enterprise establishment and trade; created market protection and financial market institutions and rules; opened their markets; reduced state aids; and joined several international and European organizations.[5] Since this did not proceed with the same speed and success among the EU accession aspirants, negotiations did not begin at the same time with the applicants. The European Commission created individual yearly reports on the preparedness of each candidate country. The more prepared Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland (belonging to the so-called Luxemburg group[6]) had the first chapters of negotiation opened to them in 1998, while those developing with delay (the Helsinki group[7]), including Slovakia – burdened with the construction of state and nation – started the negotiations in 2000 only. The European Commission conducted bilateral negotiations with the candidate countries, which – due to extending the accession date several times and floating the perspective of extension in more rounds – were interested in closing the chapters as soon as possible, gaining individual exemptions (so-called derogations), and maximizing the available community funds instead of coordination and joint action.

Poland wanted to seem unmissable by emphasizing the results of shock therapy, the end of transformational recession – which they were first to see – and the substantive size of their market, even on a regional level, while their agriculture was very badly structured, their heavy industry required substantial state aid, and their infrastructure was relatively underdeveloped.[8] The Czech considered themselves the forerunners of the region due to their western (central) location, advanced industrial traditions, fiscal balance, and gradual reforms protecting social stability, but they were behind both Poland and Hungary in terms of privatization and public sector transformation.[9] The Hungarian leadership also considered their country a forerunner, based on not only governmental stability, but also swift economic restructuring, developed and extensive privatization, and the amount of the incoming FDI – which then exceeded the aggregated amount of all the other countries –, although state debt and almost continuous lack of financial balance was a major problem.[10] Slovakia[11], lagging behind in several dimensions of the transformation, and left out of the first round of the NATO enlargement to the East due to its Mečiarian nationalism and authoritarianism, started the EU accession negotiations only after the change of government in 1998. However, the Visegrad countries became members of the EU all at once, on May 1, 2004, according to the big bang decision[12], and Slovakia was first – and to date remained the only – to join the Eurozone, replacing its currency with Euro.[13]

The limits of political cooperation

NATO and EU membership fulfilled the primary V4 objectives, while the Visegrad countries remained competitors in several fields, such as EU grants and attracting foreign investments. Cooperation was on the decline even during the accession phase, and although the Visegrad frame did not change in essence after membership in the EU, and preliminary V4 coordination took place at regular intervals in decision making, with the heads of government holding mini-summits before meetings of the European Council,[14] political cooperation – except for joining the Schengen area – did not extend beyond general declarations and diplomatic courtesy for the most part, except for issues where the co-equality of the Eastern member states was at stake. In addition to competition, other factors also helped weaken the texture of politics.

On the part of Poland, the foreign policy priorities of the Tusk administration seeking to become a member state of weight even on an EU level was the chief barrier of closer cooperation. While the Civic Platform (PO) governed Poland – a country exceeding the size of all the rest of the Visegrad countries both in size and in population –, their efforts were channeled towards reviving the so-called Weimar Triangle of Paris, Berlin and Warsaw, and sought to turn the German-Polish relationship – impaired during the previous government led by the Kaczynski twins (Law and Justice, PiS) – into a strategic alliance.[15]

The Czech governments also had their eyes on the West for the most part, while their domestic affairs confined their foreign policy activities in the first place. Toplánek’s difficulties in setting up his government, the heterogeneity of his coalition, his premature failure, the provisional nature of the Fischer and the Rusnok governments, and the departure of prime minister Nečas revealed the weakness of the Czech political leadership.[16] Unlike the Polish government weathering the international financial crisis with relative ease[17], crisis management took much attention and resources out of the Czech administration from 2008 on[18], leaving them less ambitious to boost the Visegrad cooperation.

The Slovak government was in a somewhat similar situation between 2006 and 2010, but its narrow international leeway was due to the setup of its coalition, as the participating Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the extremist Slovak National Party (SNS) were not in line with the democratic (Western) values. The Party of European Socialists (PES) was of the same opinion, when suspending the government’s main party – and that of the prime minister – Smer (Direction) between 2006 and 2009.[19]

The Hungarian prime minister elected in 2006 also become internationally invalid, as his political credibility was challenged by the Őszöd speech, by how he handled the subsequent disturbances that fall, by the breakup of the coalition, and by favoring the South Stream over the Nabucco pipeline in the international arena. The situation was not much better economically, either: the credibility of the government and its leader was questioned by the ongoing violation of the Maastricht criteria, the regularly failing convergence programs, and the country becoming insolvent.[20] Following an interim year of crisis management, the new government coming into power in 2010 – and successfully holding the EU Presidency in 2011 – also became isolated in the European arena, as the political criticism of its unorthodox economic policy and public sector reforms made Hungary the “black sheep”[21] of the EU. None of the Western governments sided with Budapest in the political debates, and Visegrad countries did not stand by it, either. However, in the issue of EU sanctions against Russia following the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, the Hungarian government managed to break free of its regional seclusion when taking the same position as the Slovak government – otherwise hostile to it due to changes in the nationality law[22] – that economic sanctions were not the right tool to solve the political conflict.[23]

The migration crisis begetting political unity

Year 2015 brought substantive changes to regional political cooperation. The European migration crisis – which is considered that year’s most important development – established the conditions of political cooperation for the V4 and contributed to the Visegrad countries – lacking in influence up to that point – becoming a group to be taken into account in shaping the policy of the EU. The Polish change of government in 2015 was a major factor in this, as – unlike its predecessor – the administration led by Law and Justice (PiS) considered regional support and unity more important, lending new momentum and more weight to the Visegrad cooperation.[24]

At the Council’s relocation quota decision (2015/1601), three of the four Visegrad countries rejected the proposition, while Poland joined the common position and voted in favor of the proposal.[25] Those who voted against it rejected the mandatory nature of the quota with reference to the former position of the European Council requiring popular consensus on the one hand, and to the sovereignty and safety of their countries on the other. They also called attention to the quotas being impossible to enforce, as the overwhelming majority of people applying for asylum did not wait out the end of the official process in the transit countries but set out towards a destination country earlier.[26]

Although the Polish government shared these views, and originally agreed on representing the joint position of the Visegrad countries, its representative ended up voting for the relocation quota at the Council vote. The official explanation was that Poland wanted to avoid isolation, and since the weight of supporters indicated that the proposal would easily pass in either case, they trusted to keep their influence up to the final version of the EU’s asylum policy.[27] It can be presumed, however, that the Polish position was also influenced by the fact that European Council president Donald Tusk, who officially endorsed the proposition of the European Commission, was the PO’s former president and prime minister. Following the Polish change of government, the prime minister of PiS, Beata Szydło – who criticized the quota policy in the campaign – first sided with fulfilling the international commitments entered into by her predecessor, including the relocation quota, but then in light of the attacks in Paris and Brussels, with reference to the sovereignty and safety of her country, rejected to execute the relocation,[28] and insisted that Poland should be allowed to decide on who should be admitted to its territory.[29] In addition, the Szydło government proposed a resolution in the Polish parliament stating that the mandatory quota mechanism contradicted a fundamental principle of the EU, subsidiarity. Each fraction of the parliament voted in favor of the proposal, indicating a change in the position of the Civic Platform (PO), which used to accept the quota, but now adhered to the values of the Polish majority.[30]

Security policy and public security were key arguments in both the Szydło government and the Hungarian government, though the Hungarian prime minister commented on the risks of economic migration much earlier than the migration crisis, back in January of 2015, right after the attack on the Charlie Hebdo editorial office, as the first leader in the EU to do so, with his sentences receiving extensive criticism.[31] When a few months passed, the Hungarian government launched an intense political campaign, and took booth legal and border protection steps to hinder irregular migration, initiating a referendum on mandatory settlement. The problem of migration originally presented as an economic and cultural challenge in Hungarian politics, gradually gained security dimensions (public security, terrorism, public sanitation), and finally the government came to consider mass migration as a threat to the European civilization as a whole.[32] The party president of Jobbik (Movement for a Better Hungary), originally a radical right-wing opposition of the government – as opposed to anti-immigration and anti-Muslim Western extremists – made several pro-Arabic and pro-Islam statements,[33] while – along with his party comrades – attacking the Gypsy and the Jewish community with racist comments.[34] Even though Jobbik changed its rhetoric during the migration crisis, it did not give consistent reactions to marked anti-immigration governmental measures, and – since the left-wing parties typically got stuck with humanitarian arguments and exhorting all-European solutions – thus Fidesz (the Alliance of Young Democrats – Hungarian Civic Union) could permanently dominate this topic and its agenda.[35]

In Slovakia, the political parties switched into campaign mode from May of 2015, and mass irregular migration became a highlighted national security issue of Slovak politics instead of a mere EU affair. The most important political parties, along with head of government Robert Fico and his administration, took a decisive position against mandatory settlement, and that did not change after the election of March 2016 or with the declining number of asylum seekers arriving into the EU.[36] In the Czech Republic, several smaller – some of them newly established – parties campaigned with criticizing mass migration, and associated the risk of terrorism with the Islam. Politicians of the major parties and local organizations concerned about host facilities in their settlements spoke similarly, while their party agendas were dominated by economic issues – the sole determining fault line of the Czech party system – even at the peak of the migration crisis. Migration and its attendant risks remained a topical issue nevertheless, inasmuch as it often surfaced in the campaign of the 2016 parliamentary elections, often leading to heated discussions.[37] Anti-migration parties hoping for an advantage in the elections, and the head of state representing similar views made some members of the government took a more marked approach to this issue.[38]

Despite its relative restraint, the Czech government played an important and active role in creating political unity among the Visegrad countries. When providing the V4 presidency for a year from the summer of 2015, it called together and conducted V4 reconciliations before EU council meetings held in relation to foreign, domestic and judicial affairs, coordinating the formation of unified positions and consistent argumentations to support them.[39] While the position of the Visegrad countries was far from unified in some important questions, such as the relationship with Russia and the future of the European Union, they were able to act in unison in the issue of migration for the most part, and consistently criticized several elements of the EU asylum policy.

To this day, the Visegrad countries – just like most of the other member states – have not yet carried out the reception of 120 thousand people applying for asylum in Italy or Greece, as prescribed by the mandatory relocation quotas. The Czech Republic took 12, Slovakia took 16, Hungary and Poland took zero asylum seekers this way. (Although the other member states concerned – except for Austria – carried out more in essence, the total relocation thus far barely exceeds one fourth of the original decision.)[40] Slovakia and Hungary contested the Council’s relocation decision through legal channels, but their suit was rejected by the Court of Justice of the European Union.[41] Right before the decision made by the court, the European Commission started an infringement procedure against Warsaw, Prague and Budapest, but since this met with the disagreement of the V4 governments, the Court of Justice will most likely have the final word in this matter as well.[42]

The V4 governments unitedly objected to the European Commission’s quota proposal on the distribution (called relocation) of people put under international protection, and also criticized the mandatory nature of an automatic distribution mechanism without a ceiling.[43] The Visegrad countries hold that member state sovereignty called for voluntary solutions only, but the last voluntary relocation offers brought only zero numbers from each of the four countries.[44] The V4 countries believe in flexible solidarity, conveyed through various means and instruments.[45] They believe that the all-European solution should be based primarily on a well-functioning Schengen border protection, joint action with the source and the transit countries, and reception centers operated outside the territory of the EU. The Visegrad countries conceive a joint action that provides financial help to the source and the transit countries as well, geared towards alleviating and terminating the cause, enhancing the efficiency of international cooperation and development, registering people seeking international protection, establishing reception centers close to their homeland, supporting them, controlling the EU borders with more efficiency, determined action against those participating in trafficking and organized crime, effective deportation procedures of denied asylum applicants, and readmission agreements made with the sources countries.[46]

EU criticism, flexible solidarity

Those who have a major influence on shaping EU policy were surprised at the V4’s joint and consistent opposition to the quota policy of the EU. Due to divergent national interests and/or individual profit maximization, the Visegrad countries did not use to have such political unity and determination, and the Eastern member states had less influence on EU decision making amidst the traditionally asymmetric power relations. The opposition of the Visegrad countries introduced the V4 brand into EU decision making,[47] but also prompted serious criticism on the part of those forming and supporting the majority view of the EU. The critique articulated by several EU and Western governmental entities underlined the breach of shared European values, with emphasis on renouncing the principle of solidarity, and the failure to carry out EU obligations and the joint decision.[48] Several emphasized that the EU member states had obligations in addition to rights,[49] and some wanted to make the implementation of the common asylum policy a condition for the payment of grants from the structural funds.[50]

The Visegrad countries considered all this an unacceptable financial pressure, an extortion,[51] and persevered in flexible solidarity. They wanted to demonstrate that the rejection of certain elements of the common EU policy did not constitute a lack of solidarity, and they did fulfill their share of crisis management and assistance in other areas. In the fall of 2005, Czech, Slovak and Polish forces joined their Hungarian comrades in protecting the Schengen borders, and the V4 countries provided joint assistance to Slovenia in fulfilling similar responsibilities. The V4 countries sent a relatively large number of experts and policemen to FRONTEX and EASO for border protection enhancement, and raised the amount of their contribution to the EU emergency fund for Africa.[52] Except for Slovakia, they also fulfilled their most recent offer to send officers to the Coastguard Rapid Border Intervention Teams and made further contributions.[53] During the crisis, they offered help to Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece on a bilateral basis, but they did not want to take that opportunity. The Czech Republic made a voluntary commitment to participate in the relocation program, and while it did not fulfill it completely, it did take over several dozens of refugees. The country joined the humanitarian inclusion program and the voluntary offers of the EU-Turkey agreement, receiving refugees in that framework as well. Most of the Visegrad countries increased their support given in the framework of the international development cooperation, while Hungary decreased its appropriation, but tried to help the countries and the population of the crisis zone with targeted assistance cooperated by a framework program[54].

The Visegrad parties and the majority of public opinion are against the asylum trend

Criticism on the EU asylum trend and the conflicts undertaken with the EU in the issues of migration did not decrease the domestic popularity of either V4 political entities, on the contrary… The popularity of PiS, the Polish governing party preparing for provincial elections is now above that of the winning parliamentary elections of 2015.[55] The parties supporting migration declined at the latest election, and the ones making it to parliament for the first time – even if their original position had been permissive – took a stricter position within a half a year, mostly due to the terrorist attack in Brussels and the mandatory quota proposals.[56] In Hungary, Fidesz, winning the election of 2014 as well as that of 2010, escaped from a momentary loss of popularity thanks to its marked anti-migration policy during the migration crisis, and has preserved its vantage in support from the people ever since,[57] awaiting the parliamentary elections in April with the prospect of winning. In Slovakia, Smer remained the determining party in political life and in governance, although its support declined significantly in the 2016 elections, forcing it into a government coalition. Following the elections, the government did not make substantial changes in its trend of migration policy. All the relevant parties – except for Most and Siet’ – unanimously see a security risk in mass immigration, and there are several parties new to the parliament or able to grow the number of their seats that are expressly against mass migration. Thus, the reason for Smer’s loss of popularity was not here, but in the conditions of education and health care, in the discontent of employees in these two sectors.[58] However, the party may suffer even more substantially from the political crisis exploded after the murder of an investigative journalist inquiring into the relationship between politics and the Italian mafia, along with his bride, as indicated by the head of government stepping down to avert the breakup of the coalition.[59] In the Czech Republic, the most critical mainstream party voice against the EU policy during the migration crisis was that of ANO (Action of Dissatisfied Citizens) and its leader, Andrej Babiš.[60] Compared to the head of government and the foreign minister in the former coalition government, the migration policy of finance minister and then deputy prime minister Babiš was much closer to that of President Miloš Zeman with openly anti-immigration and anti-Islam views[61], from which the head of government led by ČSSD distanced himself more than once.[62] Still, the party of Babiš won the lower house parliamentary elections in 2017 (although his government was not yet entrusted due to lack of coalition partners), and Zeman could start his second term this year, after winning the presidential elections in January, though with a narrow majority. (The party he established still has not made it to the parliament, but their alliance party in the 2016 regional elections, Freedom and Direct Democracy, openly rejecting Islam, gained 11% of the lower house seats last year.)

The migration crisis has thus strengthened the position of parties against immigration in Poland and in Hungary, weakened those representing the humanitarian view, and compelled some to self-correction. Anti-immigration parties in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia also advanced, the migration crisis thus contributing to realignment among the party systems of the Visegrad countries. Parties rejecting mass immigration and mandatory quotas as a key aspect of EU policy were able to increase their popularity, except for SMER and Jobbik, while those following the opposite trend lost from their support for the most part. To understand the reasons, it is enough to look at the surveys on voter attitudes towards migration.

When the migration crisis broke out, IPSOS conducted a representative survey, and in January 2016, the Czech Sociology Institution reported that 61% of the respondents were of the opinion that refugees should not be accepted, not even from war zones. Another survey at the end of this year measured 64% in the same category. A third survey conducted in February 2017 indicated that about every third voter (31%) considered migration a serious threat.[63] In Slovakia, based on a 2016 survey, 63% of the respondents saw a security threat in immigration from third countries, and 70% objected to settlement based on a mandatory quota. Another survey indicated that 70% of the respondents feared the immigrants.[64] In Hungary, Migration Research Institute and Századvég conducted a joint survey, in which 90% of the respondents rejected irregular migration, 71% opposed the EU’s proposition of distribution based on mandatory quota, and 78% saw a direct relation between the wave of migration and the increased number of terrorist acts. 83% thought that mass migration would contribute to the spread of radical Islam, 90% thought that it would lead to extremist anti-Islam groups gaining more strength, and 70% believed that it would result in the deterioration of public security.[65] In Poland, 65% of the respondents related negatively to the Arabians, and 56% of them considered them dangerous to Poland’s security.[66] Based on the results of Eurobarometer surveys and Századvég’s Project28 survey[67], we can establish that immigration rejection is usually higher in the eastern part of the EU, along with fear from the consequences and discontent with the EU’s crisis management, which naturally relates to the society’s higher level ethnic homogeneity than in the western states, the limits on resources available for the foreigners’ social integration, the societies’ isolation during the former regimes, and the fear from losing the very sovereignty regained with the regime change.

More than it seems

Based on the above surveys, the reason for the strength of fellowship in terms of value and policy among the Visegrad governments is clear. Since maintaining a political cooperation and joint action along shared interests can greatly increase the influence of the V4 in the EU, their unity can decrease the asymmetry between the Western and the Eastern (or the old and the new) member states. In addition, the votes of the four Visegrad states is equal in weight to the formal weight of votes from Germany and France – considered to be the engines of migration – (58 and 58 votes), clearly indicating the reason for the German-French axis, with a decisive influence on the EU policies, and ambitioning the same for the future, having a kick against the Eastern member states, once a stable hinterland, becoming united and forming a political opposition.[68]

Consensus is still considered a basic value in forming EU public policy. Thus, aiming for agreement and the spirit of compromise is expected in decision making, despite qualified majority voting expansions. This was especially expected of the Eastern member states with less informal influence, handled as second-class upon their accession. The affirmation of adaptability also means that the member states obstructing the formation of a consensus take a serious political risk. In the EU political culture, isolation means loss of influence, as without building coalitions and alliances, no country can have a substantive influence on decisions. Forming a block, the Visegrad countries can decrease the political risks of taking a different road, strengthen the legitimacy of their position, advance their negotiating power, and even offer a substantive decision alternative against the suggestion of others.

During the PO government, the Weimar Triangle set Poland out of the Visegrad block, this is symbolized by Jerzy Buzek being the president of the European Parliament, and Donald Tusk the president of the European Council. The harmony between the Fidesz and the PiS governments and the emergence of the Visegrad anti-migration policy can have more substantial consequences than what would naturally come from the institutionalized – and limited – V4 cooperation. In the rule of law proceedings, the Polish-Hungarian convergence is enough to prevent the declaration of a systematic infringement. Regarding the issue of the future of the EU, three Visegrad governments (except for the Slovak one) oppose the excessive deepening of integration, and would give more say to the governments and parliaments of the member states into common concerns than they presently have. Regarding migration, they are unified in criticizing the multicultural ideology, in rejecting mass and uncontrolled migration, and in dismissing the mandatory settlement quotas. And now governments taking a similar position are found not only in the Eastern member states, but also in Austria, under the leadership of Sebastian Kurz.[69] In addition, the same views regarding migration policy are held by parties coming to the forefront and gaining the majority of parliamentary seats in the latest Italian elections,[70] which can lead to interesting situations in the Council of the European Union.

It is unlikely that the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council would bring an issue in which the Eastern member states represent a united minority position to the final vote. The formation of unity among the whole region is not very likely either, but in case it did happen, the aggregated weight of the Eastern countries would – as the voting calculator[71] indicates when setting the right parameters – still not reach the measure necessary to block EU decisions. However, if Austria and Italy joined them, their support would mean that these countries could impede any EU decisions, even when calculating with the present power relations including the United Kingdom. And if we take out the United Kingdom from among the voting countries – and for now disregard the expected enlargement of the EU around 2025 –, then the Eastern countries could overrule EU decisions with the support of Italy in itself. Actually, with the joint support of Italy and Austria, the V4 countries could block the decisions when getting the agreement of Romania and Bulgaria only. And a coalition – however casual – as such does not seem unthinkable at all. Therefore, the V4 cooperation in the issue of migration goes way beyond asylum applications and distribution quotas in a political sense.


[1] See the declaration at http://www.visegradgroup.eu/documents/visegrad-declarations/visegrad-declaration-110412-2 (downloaded: 12/10/2017).

[2] More about the fund (https://www.visegradfund.org/), about the joint TV (http://www.v4tv.eu/start,hu and https://444.hu/2017/02/16/jovore-johet-a-v4-tv), about the battle group (http://www.visegradgroup.eu/calendar/2014/bratislava-declaration), and about the bank (https://www.portfolio.hu/finanszirozas/bankok/kozos-fejlesztesi-bankot-alapithatnak-a-visegradi-orszagok.272561.html, downloaded: 01/21/2017.

[3] For example, see Laurence Whitehead: Three International Dimensions of Democratization. In Laurence Whitehead (ed): The International Dimensions of Democratization: Europe and the Americas, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996, p. 19. or András Bozóki: The End of Communism, EES Discussion Paper, 2004, quoted by Serena Giusti: Central European Countries’ Politics After Joining the EU, ISPI Working Paper, Issue 23, November 2007, p. 9.

[4] The conditions of accession (https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/policy/conditions-membership_en, downloaded: 12/10/2017) were accepted by the leaders of the EU at the Copenhagen Council (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/enlargement/ec/pdf/cop_en.pdf, downloaded: 03/01/2014).

[5] For an overview, see for example Sharon L. Wolchik and Jane Leftwich Curry (eds): Central and East European Politics: From Communism to Democracy, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, 2004. (3rd edition)

[6] See point 27 of the communication published on the European Council’s relevant decision (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/summits/lux1_en.htm#enlarge, downloaded: 03/01/2014).

[7] See point 10 of the communication published on the European Council’s relevant decision (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/summits/hel1_en.htm, downloaded: 03/01/2014).

[8] Comp. for example, with the country report from the European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/archives/pdf/key_documents/2000/pl_en.pdf (downloaded: 03/01/2014).

[9] Comp. for example, with the country report from the European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/archives/pdf/key_documents/2000/cz_en.pdf (downloaded: 03/01/2014).

[10] Comp. for example, with the country report from the European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/archives/pdf/key_documents/2000/hu_en.pdf (downloaded: 03/01/2014).

[11] Comp. for example, with the country report from the European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/archives/pdf/key_documents/2000/sk_en.pdf (downloaded: 03/01/2014).

[12] The formal decision was made at the Copenhagen European Council (https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/20906/73842.pdf, downloaded: 03/01/2014) on December of 2002.

[13] Basic information on the Eurozone: https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/money/euro_en (downloaded: 12/10/2017).

[14] Grúber Károly – Törő Csaba: A Visegrádi (V4) Európai Unión belüli együttműködésének szempontjai és eddigi tapasztalatai (http://kki.hu/assets/upload/Kulugyi_Szemle_2010_02_A_Visegredi_Neegyek_V4_E_.pdf, downloaded: 03/01/2014), Külügyi Szemle, 2010/2.

[15] On the importance of the Weinmar triangle, see for example: https://www.euractiv.com/section/economy-jobs/news/analysts-weimar-triangle-key-for-poland-s-new-role-in-eu/ (downloaded: 01/11/2018).

[16] For prime minister terms, see https://presidential-power.com/?p=6427 (downloaded: 01/11/2018).

[17] In a nutshell, see http://www.ibtimes.com/east-european-miracle-how-did-poland-avoid-global-recession-795799 (downloaded: 01/11/2018).

[18] About the effects of the crisis on the Czech Republic: https://dk.upce.cz/bitstream/handle/10195/38507/TvrdonM_ ConsequencesOfTheGlobal_2010.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (downloaded: 01/11/2018).

[19] A paper called “Sme” discussed the decision and its consequences in length (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20003547/euro-socialists-suspend-ficos-smer-party.html, downloaded: 01/11/2018).

[20] On the circumstances of the prime minister’s fall, see http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20090330-gyurcsany-ferenc-lemondasanak-hattere.html (downloaded: 01/11/2018).

[21] The Economist also used this expression (https://www.economist.com/news/europe/21579052-viktor-orban-once-again-accused-dismantling-rule-law-hungary-black-sheep,) along with Nouvelle Europe (http://www.nouvelle-europe.eu/node/1408, downloaded: 01/11/2018).

[22] On the Slovak reaction: https://index.hu/kulfold/2010/05/26/azonnal_osszehivtak_a_szlovak_kormanyt/ (downloaded: 01/05/2018).

[23] See http://mandiner.hu/cikk/20140815_orban_az_oroszorszag_elleni_szankciokkal_labon_lottuk_magunkat (downloaded: 01/05/2018).

[24] All this as part of a foreign policy correction: http://www.newsweek.com/polandparliamentary-electionlaw-and-justice-partynational-conservative-law-and-598088 (downloaded: 01/05/2018).

[25] On the decision and its precedents see the summary published on the homepage of the European Parliament: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2015/569018/EPRS_BRI%282015%29569018_EN.pdf (downloaded: 01/05/2018).

[26] Cf. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-slovakia-hungary/hungary-slovakia-challenge-quotas-on-asylum-seekers-at-top-eu-court-idUSKBN186222 (downloaded 01/05/2018).

[27] Anna Kobierecka, Michał Kobierecki, Robert Łoś, Michał Rulski: Migration as a Political and Public Phenomenon: The Case of Poland. In. Robert Łoś, Anna Kobierecka (eds): The V4 Towards Migration Challenges in Europe, Łódź University Press, Łódź, 2017, p. 176.

[28] On the changed position, see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3333233/Poland-s-new-PM-says-country-not-accept-EU-quota-4-500-refugees-wake-Paris-terror-attacks.html (downloaded: 02/02/2017).

[29] Kobierecka et al. ibid. pp. 183–184.

[30] Ibid. p. 185.

[31] For example, see the following articles: https://www.boell.de/en/2015/02/26/hungarys-politicians-react-paris-attacks-proposals-restrict-immigration-and-freedom; http://www.craigwilly.info/2015/01/14/orban-criticized-for-using-free-speech-rally-to-exercise-free-speech/; https://euobserver.com/justice/127172 (downloaded: 05/17/2017).

[32] Sándor Gallai: Political Implications. In. Robert Łoś, Anna Kobierecka ibid, pp. 144–145.

[33] For example, see the following declarations: http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2013/11/111456/hungary-far-right-party-leader-says-islam-is-the-last-hope-of-humanity/ és http://www.jobbik.com/vona_g%C3%A1bor_about_islam (downloaded: 02/22/2017).

[34] Bíró Nagy András – Róna Dániel: Tudatos radikalizmus. A Jobbik útja a parlamentbe, 2003–2010. In. Lánczi András (ed): Nemzet és radikalizmus. Egy új pártcsalád felemelkedése, Századvég Kiadó, Budapest, 2011, pp. 254–255.

[35] Gallai Sándor ibid. pp. 145–146.

[36] Martina Balečekova, Barbora Olejarova: Migration as a Political and Public Phenomenon: The Case of Slovakia. In. Robert Łoś, Anna Kobierecka ibid, 2016 – p. 221.

[37] Jan Bečka, Bohumil Duboš, Filip Gantner, Jakub Landovský, Lenka Pítrová, Martin Riegl, Scarlett Waitzmanová: Migration as a Political and Public Phenomenon: The Case of Czech Republic. In. Robert Łoś, Anna Kobierecka ibid, pp. 54–58.

[38] Ibid. p. 56.

[39] Ibid. p. 59.

[40] Data per each country is available at the EASO homepage: https://www.easo.europa.eu/easo-relocation (downloaded: 03/11/2018).

[41] Summary on the decision of the Court of Justice: https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2017-09/cp170091en.pdf (downloaded: 03/11/2018).

[42] For the news about this, see https://www.hirado.hu/2017/06/13/kotelezettsegi-eljarast-inditott-az-europai-bizottsag/ (downloaded: 03/11/2018).

[43] See https://euobserver.com/migration/130122, and http://hungarianspectrum.org/2017/10/20/another-european-summit-with-special-attention-to-the-visegrad-4/ (downloaded: 12/05/2017).

[44] The following communication of the European Commission talks about this and the steps of the proposed legislation: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2014_2019/plmrep/AUTRES_INSTITUTIONS/COMM/COM/2018/01-08/COM_COM20170820_HU.pdf (downloaded: 03/08/2018).

[45] For details, see http://www.visegradgroup.eu/flexible-solidarity (downloaded: 12/05/2017).

[46] For unified concepts, see http://www.mzv.cz/file/1605886/Joint_Statement_MFA_11092015_final.pdf; https://www.vlada.cz/en/media-centrum/aktualne/-joint-statement-of-the-visegrad-group-countries-on-the-current-migration-situation–135036/ (downloaded: 01/22/2018).

[47] Jan Bečka et al. ibid. p. 71.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Including the French president (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12290-016-0422-6, donwloaded: 01/05/2018).

[50] The Finnish minister of finance, and the Italian and Austrian prime ministers – not in office any more – made similar declarations (https://www.euractiv.com/section/elections/news/finland-make-eu-funding-conditional-for-members-turning-away-refugees/, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/08/austria-calls-for-less-funding-for-eu-countries-refusing-refugees, and http://www.dw.com/en/italys-pm-renzi-calls-for-funding-cuts-for-eu-states-which-refuse-to-take-in-refugees/a-36026000, downloaded: 01/05/2018).

[51] News about the reaction: http://www.ekathimerini.com/217210/article/ekathimerini/news/central-europes-leaders-reject-eus-relocation-of-migrants (downloaded: 01/11/2018).

[52] Joint Statement of the Visegrad Group Countries, La Valletta, 12 November 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic (http://www.mzv.cz/file/1695173/Deklarace_V4_EN.pdf, downloaded: 02/18/2017).

[53] As indicated by the data on pages 17 and 21 of the European Commission’s communication below: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2014_2019/plmrep/AUTRES_INSTITUTIONS/COMM/COM/2018/01-08/COM_COM20170820_HU.pdf (downloaded: 3/8/2018).

[54] The program is called Hungary helps. Details at this homepage: http://abouthungary.hu/hungary-helps/ (downloaded: 03/11/2018).

[55] Results of the last poll: http://www.thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/347893,PiS-way-ahead-in-polls (downloaded: 02/22/2018).

[56] Anna Kobierecka et al. ibid. pp. 181–183.

[57] For party preference trends, see https://kozvelemenykutatok.hu/partpreferencia/ (downloaded: 03/13/2018).

[58] Articles on the same topic: https://www.euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/slovakias-fico-poised-for-win-in-boost-to-eus-anti-refugee-east/ és https://www.reuters.com/article/slovakia-vote-economy/slovakias-economy-stands-out-but-its-public-services-lag-behind-idUSL8N16A4T4 (downloaded: 12/10/2016).

[59] On the case and the coalition crisis, see for example http://www.origo.hu/nagyvilag/20180226-meggyilkoltak-egy-szlovak-oknyomozo-ujsagirot-es-menyasszonyat.html and https://www.dehir.hu/vilag/szlovak-kormanyvalsag-tavozik-a-belugyminiszter-borul-e-a-domino/2018/03/13/ (downloaded: 03/13/2018).

[60] Babiš demanded a stop to migration, did not think there was place in Europe for people arriving from Syria (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-truck-czech-babis/czech-finance-minister-says-no-place-for-migrants-in-europe-idUSKBN149226), and the Czech Republic should follow the same trend of resistance as Hungary and Slovakia (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-truck-czech-babis/czech-finance-minister-says-no-place-for-migrants-in-europe-idUSKBN149226, downloaded: 02/07/2018).

[61] See this interview with him (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/14/milos-zeman-czech-leader-refugees) or this article (http://www.france24.com/en/20180111-milos-zeman-outspoken-pro-russian-anti-migrant-czech-president and https://www.ft.com/content/8bae2ec6-8725-11e6-bbbe-2a4dcea95797, downloaded: 02/07/2018).

[62] This happened after the president participated in an anti-immigration political demonstration (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-11-20/czech-premier-chides-president-for-spreading-xenophobia-hatred), and after his Christmas message (http://www.dw.com/en/czech-president-zeman-says-refugee-wave-is-organized-invasion/a-18943660, downloaded: 02/07/2018).

[63] Jan Bečka et al. ibid. p. 52.

[64] Martina Balečekova, Barbora Olejarova ibid. pp. 212–213.

[65] Gallai Sándor ibid. p. 115–117.

[66] Anna Kobierecka et al ibid. p. 175.

[67] The latter is available at this homepage: (http://project28.eu/project28/, downloaded: 02.11.2018), the former here (http://ec.europa.eu/commfrontoffice/publicopinion/index.cfm/Survey/index#p=1&instruments=STANDARD).

[68] They are not passive bystanders, either: As early as 2009, President Sarkozy objected to the V4 reconciliations becoming official before Council meetings, although the same is natural between German and French leaders (https://euobserver.com/news/28928, downloaded: 12/10/2007), and this is the explanation for Macron’s divisive, selective regional negotiations (http://www.intellinews.com/visegrad-mhttps://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2015-02-04/slavkov-declaration-a-new-format-regional-cooperationcron-plays-divide-and-rule-in-central-europe-127732/). On the limitations of the Slavkov cooperation as a frame of the latter, see https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2015-02-04/slavkov-declaration-a-new-format-regional-cooperation (downloaded: 02/07/2018).

[69] The Austrian Chancellor stated this after conferring with the Hungarian prime minister (https://www.politico.eu/article/orban-and-kurz-promise-to-continue-migration-fight/, downloaded: 03/11/2018).

[70] All this in accordance with the public opinion: the 88th Standard Eurobarometer relying on data from the Fall of 2017 indicates that most of the Italians consider immigration the most important issue of the EU, and the most alarming national issue right after that of unemployment. In the same survey, the Austrians placed this first in both national and EU level (http://ec.europa.eu/commfrontoffice/publicopinion/index.cfm/Survey/getSurveyDetail/instruments/STANDARD/surveyKy/2143, pp.7–11., downloaded: 2/25/2018).

[71] http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/council-eu/voting-system/voting-calculator/ (downloaded: 01/16/2018)

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