The establishment of the Visegrad Group in 1991 formalized the cultural, historic and economic bonds of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. The group was formed during the years of liberal optimism, as it seemed that these countries were on the straight path to open societies and independence. While the V4 countries are competitors in many areas, the group has an international political relevance and the relations are tighter on the fields of defence, energy, research and civil society. In some areas the cooperation reaches out beyond the borders of the V4 countries thanks to the International Visegrad Fund. The Visegrad countries became members of the European Union at the same time 15 years ago. However the EU accession did not fulfill the way to a liberal democracy. In fact not just the common legacy and cooperation is discussed recently but also the democratic backlash in these countries. This volume wishes to assess the Visegrad Group from different aspects. Foremost we are interested if the group still has political relevance within the EU and on the international level. This issue is also relevant from the aspect of the new leadership of the European Union, since no important position will be fulfilled from the V4 group. We also wish to discuss the group’s relation to illiberalism, if the V4 accelerates the illiberal tendencies or if the V4 countries should not be deemed as the same case from this aspect at all. Furthermore, the volume also focuses on economic issues, like dependency on old member states and opportunities for V4 entrepreneurs. Finally, our aim was also to discuss the areas of tighter cooperation and neighbourhood policies in the post-soviet states and the Western Balkans.
The chapters of the volume are reflecting this ambition. In his chapter Milosz Hodun discusses the Polish vision of the Visegrad group. This vision was proclaimed by president Andrzej Duda at the time Poland took over the annual rotating presidency. The author reviews how the Polish government wishes to utilize the Visegrad group in strengthening its position vis-á-vis Western European powers. The regional aspirations of Poland can be traced back however to the interwar priod, when the so called Intermarium, that is an Eastern European cooperation between the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Black sea. Šárka Prát focuses in her chapter on the spread of illiberal democracy in the region. She also examines counterinitiatives of the democratic backlash. Furthermore, Prát raises the question if the Visegrad cooperation still has a relevance in contemporary East Central Europe. She highlights an interesting new phenomenon, the Alliance of Free cities, an alternative to the Visegrad project. In his piece, István Szent-Iványi writes about the roots of the Visegrad group in the 1980s. He distinguishes three periods of the Visegrad group: the CEFTA decade (1994-2004), the first decade of the EU membership (2004-2014) and the V4 as platform for cooperation between illiberals and populists (2014-). In the last chapter Viera Zuborova considers the political polarization in Visegrad countries and the emergence of political paranoia and authoritarian personalities in mainstream politics.
The whole publication is available HERE.