Shaky V4 seeks common ground on Ukraine, migration

Leaders of the Visegrad Four countries paid lip service to the importance of the cooperation and looked for common stance on Ukraine and migration at the Thursday meeting of the group in Košice, Slovakia.

The prime ministers of Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland held a joint V4 summit on Thursday, the first in over six months, could determine whether the V4 grouping has a future amid icy relations with Hungary.

“It is clear that Hungary has different opinions and has been expressing them very strongly,“ Fiala, who is less critical of Budapest than some other Czech government members, said at the meeting.

On the EU’s unity regarding Ukraine, Fiala said “we will do our utmost to maintain it”, as it is a big weapon against Russia.

On unity within the Visegrad group, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger stressed that all countries within the group “acknowledged the importance of V4 format given how connected the countries are”, particularly regarding cooperation on defence and energy.

Meanwhile, Poland’s Mateusz Morawieck acknowledged the differences between V4 members in recent months but insisted the meeting served to discuss issues that connect them – which he said “has already become an important element of European security architecture” – instead of dividing it.

In particular, he mentioned the need to cooperate in the face of another potential refugee wave from Ukraine. He added that Visegrad countries called on the European Commission “to take immediate preventive action” and help member the states that accept most refugees.

During his visit to Helsinki last week, Morawiecki promised Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin that he would discuss Hungary’s pending ratification of the Finnish and Swedish NATO membership bid with Viktor Orban. He said he agreed with Orbán that Hungary would ratify the NATO accession of both countries at the start of 2023.

During the press conference after the meeting, the Hungarian prime minister confirmed the countries legislative will vote on the accession of the two nordic countries to the transatlantic alliance during its first spring session next year.

Orbán also reiterated that the need to stop migrants coming from the south is also a heavy burden for Hungary.

Last week Serbia, Hungary, and Austria signed a memorandum of understanding about preventing the entry of migrants into the bloc away from the external borders of the EU.

Orbán said that this tripartite alliance will try to stop migrants on the Macedonian-Serbian border in the future and that he has asked his V4 colleagues for money for this purpose.

“I have received a positive response, so at the next tripartite meeting in Vienna, I will propose to the Serbian president and the Austrian chancellor that we accept the offers made by the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland to protect our southern borders”, he wrote on social media according to EURACTIV’s media partner Telex.

The embattled V4 formation received another blow last week after this Friday’s meeting of the V4 legislative leaders was cancelled by the Slovak hosts after Czech Speaker of the House Markéta Pekarová Adamová and Czech Senate President Miloš Vystrčil refused to sit at the same table with Hungary.

This after Slovakia, currently at the helm of the rotating regional grouping presidency, at the end of March was forced to cancel the meeting between respective V4 defence ministers after Poland and Czechia pulled out.

Orbán also recently received strong criticism from high Slovak officials for wearing a scarf with the historical map of Greater Hungary at a football match.

When asked why he took a picture with such a scarf, Orbán only said: “take it easy. Politics is politics, football is football”. In response, Heger gifted Orban a new scarf with the Slovak national symbol at the summit on Thursday.

The Hungarian prime minister has also been at odds with other EU leaders in his response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, maintaining political and economic ties with Moscow.

(Ondřej Plevák, Michal Hudec, Aleksandra Krzysztoszek, Vlad Makszimov | EURACTIV.cz, EURACTIV.sk, EURACTIV.pl, EURACTIV.com)

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